Over the past year, you’ve probably noticed a lot of news coverage about the trend of “smash and grab” robberies in California. A Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco’s Union Square was a hit during the recent Christmas shopping season. There were also incidents at Burberry and Bloomingdales.
In a video that went viral in late 2021, about 80 people wearing ski masks and armed with crowbars walked into a Nordstrom outside San Francisco and staged a massive smash-and-grab operation in which they stole thousands of dollars worth of thing. commodity.
Nordstrom’s success was described by authorities as a “planned event,” with masked men grabbing handfuls of the product and fleeing to waiting cars.
A similar Nordstrom robbery occurred a few days later in the nearby city of Hayward. Around the same time — in Los Angeles — there were 11 “vandalism” incidents in two weeks, with more than $330,000 worth of merchandise stolen.
When you see this crazy pattern of theft events, the first question that pops into your mind is: What the hell is going on here? Why is there such an increase in robberies in that state? Why are these people so brazen?
So, today we will discuss theft, the law and possible consequences. Specifically, we’re going to answer today’s blog post question – Can theft go to jail?
In this article, I will cover the following topics:
- How theft is legally defined and classified
- Potential penalties for misdemeanor theft
- Possible Penalties for Felony Theft
- What led to California’s “smashing and looting”?
How theft is legally defined and classified
Theft (also known as theft) is basically defined in law as “unauthorized theft of other people’s property”. At the federal level in the United States, the only time you can be charged with theft is if you are charged with stealing government property. Alternatively, it is possible to be charged with federal theft in a theft involving the Internet.
However, the vast majority of thefts occur at the state level. That means there are 50 different ways to handle a theft case in the United States. Obviously, I’m not going to break down these laws in 50 different ways. Instead, I’ll use generalizations. While there are nuances in all of the theft laws in the state, there are a lot of commonalities.
First, most states classify theft as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor theft charge is a less serious crime, while a felony theft charge is a much more serious charge.
Whether theft constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony usually depends on the value of the acquired property. Other considerations include the person’s criminal history and the type of property stolen.
For example, in my home state of Missouri, theft of a firearm is a felony regardless of its monetary value. It is the type of item stolen that makes it a felony.
After theft is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, most states break it down further to make the charges more specific. Most states have varying levels of misdemeanors and felonies, again depending on the value and type of property stolen.
Potential penalties for misdemeanor theft
In most states, misdemeanor theft charges can be broken down by property value. In Missouri, misdemeanor theft applies when “the value of the stolen property or services is less than $750,” and the felony rules for the type of property do not apply.
In other words, if you steal an item worth less than $750 that is not listed in the felony statute (weapons, drug paraphernalia, etc.), you will be charged with a misdemeanor. If less than $150 in stolen property is involved, the first offense is a “Class D” and the penalty is a $500 fine.
In Missouri, a “Class A” misdemeanor is the theft of property or services worth more than $150 but less than $750. This could be punishable by up to a year in county jail, plus a fine not to exceed $2,000.
Dollar amounts and specifics vary by state. But generally, minor misdemeanor theft charges can result in fines and weeks in jail, no matter what state you’re in.
Possible Penalties for Felony Theft
When it comes to felony-level theft, the conviction usually carries a prison sentence. In some states, fines are also specifically listed in the law. While others base fines on the earnings the offender earned while committing the crime.
Again, I’ll go back to my home state of Missouri as an example. (Keep in mind that your state will vary when it comes to how many felony/misdemeanor categories, years in prison, and exact amounts.)
There are five different levels of felony theft in Missouri — from Class A to Class E. The lowest level is a Class E theft felony charge, defined as “stealing an animal” other than an animal listed in Classes A through D.
A person may also be charged with Class E felony larceny if they are charged with four larceny counts within a 10-year period. This is punishable by up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Theft in Missouri is considered a Class D felony if:
- Stolen property or services with a value of $750 or more but less than $25,000
- property was taken from the victim, or
- This property is one of the following items:
- motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft
- firearms or explosive weapons
- controlled substance
- credit card
- American flag for display
- Originals of legislative instruments, such as bills, bills or resolutions, or court or historical documents
- Electoral registers or lists, wills, or unrecorded property deeds
- Certain live fish, livestock, or captive wild animals
- ammonium nitrate
- any material stolen for the manufacture, testing or analysis of amphetamine or methamphetamine, or
- Any electrical wire, transformer or metal wire used to carry wired communications, conduct electricity, or transport combustible fuels.
If convicted of a Class D felony, you could be jailed for up to 7 years and fined up to $10,000.
Class C felony theft is defined as “theft of property or services valued at $25,000 or more” and is punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Class B felony theft occurs when someone steals property that contains anhydrous ammonia and is punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. This is also a Class B felony:
- Steal property containing liquid nitrogen
- Second offense involving theft of livestock or captive wild animals worth more than $3,000
- Theft of livestock worth more than $10,000
- theft of a motor vehicle, boat or aircraft, if the person has been convicted of two theft-related offenses within the past 10 years, or
- Steal property from financial institutions.
Finally, under Missouri law, “theft of certain property—tank trucks, tank trailers, rail tank trucks, bulk storage tanks, field nurses, field tanks, or field applicators—contains any amount of anhydrous ammonia (a chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine).”
If you are convicted of a Class A felony theft in Missouri, you could be sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison or life in prison.
What led to the “looting” in California?
Many have pointed to California’s criminal justice reform as the main culprit in the state’s recent spate of vandalism. Specifically, they introduced Proposition 47 — a ballot measure approved by voters in 2014 — that reduced penalties for certain nonviolent and low-level crimes.
The law makes theft of $950 or less a misdemeanor. Once people realize they can steal less than $1,000 worth of merchandise from a store without getting punished for it, “the opening season where people can take anything they want.”
Stores are now advising employees not to interfere with shoplifters, lest they get injured. Many of these crimes go unreported.as Sacramento District Attorney says“theft no longer has any consequences.”
According to Walgreens, their stores in San Francisco “have a theft rate five times the national average.” As a result, the chain has been steadily closing stores in the Bay Area. The pharmacy chain “has closed 17 locations and announced five more closures last month.”
Not everyone agrees that lax laws are contributing to California’s theft problem.
“There’s a lot of unknowns about the reasons behind ‘vandalism’ and robbery, but I’m pretty confident it’s not a result of Proposition 47, and criminal justice reform more generally,” Charis Kubrin, CA University professor of criminology, law and sociology told new york post.
what do you think? Are California’s lax theft laws contributing to the problem? Or, is there another reason? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: What’s the Punishment for Theft? Depends On What State You’re In Felony Theft and Larceny Laws https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/crime-penalties/federal/Felony-Theft.htm#:~:text=For%20repeat%20offenders%20or%20those,the%20possibility%20of%20significant%20fines. Theft Sentencing and Penalties Missouri Misdemeanor and Felony Theft: Laws and Penalties for Stealing 14 arrests made in Los Angeles smash-and-grab style crimes Mobs of looters are grabbing goods in California thanks to downgraded shoplifting laws