Theft and Stealing

Theft charges are serious and can carry severe penalties depending upon the nature of the crime. When you are arrested for theft, you need a supportive and experienced criminal lawyer who can help you understand your charges and take you through the complex legal process.

Theft crimes --also called larceny -are any crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker's use (including potential sale). Under both Kansas and Missouri law the crimes for this type of conduct are numerous. Laypeople may refer to these cases as:

* Shoplifting
* Robbery
* Stealing
* Burglary
* Fraud
* Possession of stolen property
* Bad checks
* Embezzlement
* Identity theft
* White collar theft
* Forgery

Theft Crime Penalties

Most theft crimes such as burglary and shoplifting have standard penalties guidelines that vary per jurisdiction. Penalties may range from fines to prison time. Ultimately, however, each theft case is evaluated on its own, with harsher penalties given for use of weapons and resulting injuries or deaths.

In Kansas, the severity of the theft charge depends upon the value of the item stolen. If the value of the item stolen is over $1,000 then the charge is a felony and the defendant will be sentenced according to the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines.

If the value of the item stolen is under $1,000 then the charge should be a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penatly of one year in the county jail. However, even a minor shoplifting charge where the stolen item is of little value can be elevated to felony status if the packaging for the item contained a theft detection device that was removed.

In January, 2009, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an opinion overturning the defendant's conviction of felony removal of a theft detection device where the defendant admitted he took CDs out of their packages to shoplift them but claimed he didn't know the packaging contained a theft detection device. The court said it wasn't a strict liability crime and the goverment failed to prove the defendant had the requesite mental state of knowingly and intentionally removing the theft detection device.

Another way the minor shoplifting theft can be elevated to a felony is if the accused has two or more prior theft convictions. The third charge can be charged as a felony and punishable in the same manner as if the value had been greater than $1,000 as a level nine non-person felony.

Shoplifting is not the only way a person can be charged theft. Theft can also be by deception, by threat or by taking control over property known to be stolen. Again, the punishment becomes more severe as the value of the property increases, as follows:

Theft of property of the value of $100,000 or more is a severity level 5, nonperson felony.

Theft of property of the value of at least $25,000 but less than $100,000 is a severity level 7, nonperson felony.

Theft of property of the value of at least $1,000 but less than $25,000 is a severity level 9, nonperson felony.

Evidence of Theft

The government can use any of the following types of evidence to prove the required mental intent of the defendant charged with theft:

(1) The giving of a false identification or fictitious name, address or place of employment at the time of obtaining control over the property;

(2) the failure of a person who leases or rents personal property to return the same within 10 days after the date set forth in the lease or rental agreement for the return of the property, if notice is given to the person renting or leasing the property to return the property within seven days after receipt of the notice, in which case the subsequent return of the property within the seven-day period shall exempt such transaction from consideration as prima facie evidence as provided in this section;

(3) destroying, breaking or opening a lock, chain, key switch, enclosure or other device used to secure the property in order to obtain control over the property; or

(4) destruction of or substantially damaging or altering the property so as to make the property unusable or unrecognizable in order to obtain control over the property.

(b) Failure to return your overdue library books within 30 days from receiving a written request from the library. (That is not a joke. You can be prosecuted for theft for your failure to return your library books on time.)

(c) The word "notice" means written notice and will be presumed to have been given three days following deposit of the notice as registered or certified matter in the United States mail, addressed to such person who has leased or rented the personal property or borrowed the library material at the address as it appears in the information supplied by such person at the time of such leasing, renting or borrowing, or to such person's last known address.

Theft of Services

Theft of property, as described above is prosecuted under K.S.A. 21-3701. You can also be prosecuted for theft of services under K.S.A. 21-3704. The value of the services will control the level of the crime charged and it follows the same rules outlined above for theft of property. The statute mainly deals with theft of utility services such as cable television, water, gas, electricity or trash service but can also be used to prosecute a person who can't pay their cab fare.

Obviously, since the value of the property or service will control the severity of the level of the felony charged and its corresponding maximum punishment, value is a hotly disputed element of the crime. Another hotly disputed element of the crime is the element of permanency that is required of the deprivation. This crops up a lot especially where the defendant is accused of theft of an automobile where the "victim" is a relative or ex-spouse or girlfriend and there was a prior pattern of consensual borrowing, especially done for the benefit of the owner. (Such as when ex-spouse or girlfriend requests the defendant retreive children from school or groceries from store.)

Unlawful Borrowing

In any case, if the prosecution cannot prove the defendant intended the deprivation to be of a permanent nature, then the appropriate charge is not felony theft, but a class A misdemeanor known as criminal deprivation of property per K.S.A. 21-3705.

If the item in question is a car then the following rules apply:

Upon a first conviction of this subsection, a person shall be sentenced to not less than 30 days nor more than one year's imprisonment and fined not less than $100. Upon a second or subsequent conviction of this subsection, a person shall be sentenced to not less than 60 days nor more than one year's imprisonment and fined not less than $200. The person convicted shall not be eligible for release on probation, suspension or reduction of sentence or parole until the person has served the minimum mandatory sentence as provided herein. The mandatory provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any person where such application would result in a manifest injustice. If the item in question is not a car, then the following rules apply:

Upon a second or subsequent conviction of this subsection, a person shall be sentenced to not less than 30 days imprisonment and fined not less than $100, except that the provisions of this subsection relating to a second or subsequent conviction shall not apply to any person where such application would result in a manifest injustice.

Criminal Damage to Property

Property which may not necessarity be stolen but has been intentionally damaged without the owner or co-owner's permission, or damaged with the intent to defraud the insurer or lienholder is unlawful per K.S.A. 21-3720.

(1) Criminal damage to property is a severity level 7, nonperson felony if the property is damaged to the extent of $25,000 or more. In this case, the maximum prison term is 34 months, or just shy of three years.

(2) Criminal damage to property is a severity level 9, nonperson felony if the property is damaged to the extent of at least $1,000 but less than $25,000. In this case, the maximum prison term is 17 months.

(3) Criminal damage to property is a class B nonperson misdemeanor if the property damaged is of the value of less than $1,000 or is of the value of $1,000 or more and is damaged to the extent of less than $1,000. In this case, the maximum punishment is six months in the county jail.

As part of the punishment under any of the above subsections, the court will order restitution to be paid to reimburse the victim for the damage to their property.