In the eyes of the law, theft, stealing, and larceny are all terms used to describe the taking of another person’s property without their consent. Depending on the circumstances of the theft or the value of the property, larceny could mean years of prison time, high fines, and a felony or misdemeanor on your criminal record if you are convicted.
Theft Penalties Range in Severity
Theft convictions are classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on what has been stolen, where it was stolen, and past criminal convictions on your record.
Stealing an animal, for example, is a Class E Felony in Missouri punishable by up to 4 years in prison. If the animal’s value exceeds $10,000, you may serve 5-15 years in prison for committing a Class B Felony.
In Illinois, theft of money or property valued between $500 and $10,000 is a Class 3 felony punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. However, suppose property was stolen from a school or place of worship. In that case, you may be convicted of a Class 2 Felony punishable by 3 to 5 years imprisonment in addition to court-mandated fines.
Building A Defense Against Larceny Charges
If you have been charged with theft of any personal property, your most important defense is to exercise your right to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement. Police may attempt to interrogate you to get you to self-incriminate, so you must wait to speak with them until after you have consulted a larceny defense attorney.
Theft charges often have dubious origins and are challenging to prove in court. For example, you may have been implicated simply for being the last person seen near the stolen property. Circumstantial evidence like this can be easily refuted at trial with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
If the prosecution can prove that the stolen property is in your possession, your attorney may also be able to build a defense based on your intent to return the property. Alternatively, you may be able to get your charges dismissed if your attorney can prove that you believed that the property belonged to you or the property’s owner gave you the property.
If you have been charged with theft, don’t let a conviction steal your freedom. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may use the above defenses and other applicable strategies to help you get your charges reduced or dismissed.