In general, thefts are classified as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the dollar value of what is alleged to have been stolen. Thefts of $500 or less are charged as class E misdemeanors. Less than $1,000 is charged as class D misdemeanors. More than $1,000 stolen results in a felony charge.
A client of mine was charged with felony theft for stealing a pack of Starburst candy. She never made it out of the store’s parking lot, returned the candy when confronted by store security, and promised never to return to the store.
But because it was her third shoplifting incident, the prosecutor charged her with felony theft and was seeking a jail sentence and probation. With my help she managed to avoid both the jail sentence and the felony conviction, but the risk is waiting for people caught unaware of the consequences of their actions.
Third offense theft charges are often felonies, and prosecutors who prosecute these felonies frequently seek jail sentences, regardless of common sense, logic, or fairness.
It is my job as defense counsel to find whatever defenses are available and to tell each person’s story so the severity of the law does not come down on everyone without recognition of each person’s individual circumstances.
Many crimes are cumulative, meaning that prior misdemeanor convictions can add up to extremely severe felony penalties. I fight to make sure my clients do not suffer these consequences unnecessarily.