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Understanding the severity of theft charges

When it comes to theft-related crimes, many people believe that it’s a relatively low-risk, high-reward proposition, meaning the likelihood of getting caught is very low while the potential payoff is very high. Furthermore, many people believe that the consequences of a conviction on these types of charges are less severe than most crimes, resulting in a small fine or little more than a few months behind bars.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The simple fact is that law enforcement officials are constantly looking to make arrests in theft and property crime cases, and that advances in surveillance equipment and computer technology have actually made their job much easier. In addition, the consequences for a conviction on these types of charges can prove to be incredibly severe.

In general, Tennessee divides theft crimes into two distinct categories: theft of property and theft of services.

In order to be found guilty of the former, the prosecutor must effectively prove that a person knowingly obtained or exercised control over the property in question 1) without the owner’s effective consent and 2) with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.  

The determination as to whether a person is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor ultimately depends upon the value of the goods that were alleged to have been taken. For example, a person could be charged with Class A misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is $500 or less, or a Class A felony if the value of the stolen property is $250,000 or more.

We will continue to discuss this topic in future posts, including taking a closer look at some of the potential penalties associated with a conviction on theft of property charges.

In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you are facing these or any other type of criminal charge as your freedom and your reputation are at stake.  

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TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association
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