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Misdemeanor and Felony Theft

Larceny, larceny after trust, shoplifting, embezzlement, and receiving stolen property are all charged in Maryland as a consolidated crime called “theft.”   There are many ways someone can be charged, prosecuted and incarcerated for committing the crime of theft including (but not limited to):

  1. Walking out of store without paying for something (shoplifting)
  2. Not giving your boss the cash paid by a customer for a product or service.
  3. Buying or receiving something you did not steal, but you know it’s stolen.
  4. Receiving and using a package that was erroneously delivered to you.
  5. Finding and then using to your advantage property that was lost by someone else.
  6. Retaining possession of a new car after the first payment by check “bounced”.
  7. Buy personal items using money, funds, credit cards of an employer.
  8. Using money held for someone else, for your own benefit or purpose.

The penalties for theft in Maryland are graduated depending on the value of the item or service that was allegedly stolen:

  • Less than $100……………..……….….. 90 days jail/$500 fine or both (misdemeanor)
  • $100 but less than $1,500…….…… 6 months/$1,500 fine or both (misdemeanor)
  • $1,500 but less than $25,000….... 5 years/$10,000 fine or both (felony)
  • $25,000 but less than $100,000.. 10 years/$15,000 fine or both (felony)
  • $100,000 or more…………………… ..20 years/$25,000 fine or both (felony)

Second and subsequent offenses carry enhanced penalties.   Aside from the risk of jail, fines and probation, theft convictions have additional collateral consequences.  Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, meaning that a theft conviction indicates the defendant is a person with an untrustworthy character.    Convictions for theft can disqualify individuals from future employment, especially any job in which the employee is expected to handle something of value (i.e., money, jewelry, other people’s belongings, etc.)   Many apartment buildings will not rent units to someone with a theft conviction.   Theft can also be grounds for deportation for anyone who is not a United States citizen.  

One should also be aware that prosecutors usually take a tough position against anyone accused of committing a theft against his or her employer.   Similarly, judges are ready to hand out stiffer punishments in such cases.  This is because the employee is considered to have violated the trust of the employer.   It is also often difficult to get convictions in employee theft cases removed from one’s record because the government and the court’s want the record to be available to put future employers on notice that this prospective employee might not be trustworthy.

Fortunately, being charged with theft does not necessarily mean you must be found guilty of theft.   Many people, for example are charged with theft when they actually committed no crime.  For example, we are always dismayed when we learn of someone who pled guilty to theft when, in fact, the defendant had no “intent to permanently deprive” the owner of the item, an essential element of a theft conviction.   There are many other intricate issues that go into establishing the crime of theft: was the crime properly charged; do the items or services have sufficient value; is there proof the defendant intended to obtain the control of the item without paying for it; did the defendant believe he was authorized to exert control over the property of someone else; is the case charged with the applicable statute of limitations; did the theft statute change after the crime was committed or after the crime was charged to the benefit of the defendant; is a theft prosecution prohibited because of a more specific statute that is applicable to the defendant’s conduct.   Therefore, theft cases often involve useful issues to raise during negotiations, pretrial motions, and at trial.

Even if the evidence against the defendant is substantial, most theft crimes do not involve violence or threats of violence.   Many times, the lost suffered by the victim can be restored.   And some cases that might look like a theft are really civil disputes that can be resolved with a civil lawsuit and mediation rather than criminal charges.   Therefore, even when things look grim, there are often many opportunities negotiate a favorable resolution.   And if no resolution is possible, one of our experienced attorneys is ready to challenge the quantity and quality of the government’s evidence at trial. 

Also be aware, the expungement laws have become more favorable for persons convicted in Maryland of theft and, in certain cases, it might be possible to expunge a theft conviction that did not result in a dismissal or probation before judgment.   If you believe you are under investigation for an alleged theft, have been charged with theft, or have an old conviction for theft you would like to get removed from your record please contact us to provide us with more detail regarding your situation. 

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