A charge of theft, or theft of property, can be damaging for anyone. If you’re applying for a job a theft charge can deny you the opportunity to earn money and live the good life. Some merchants, like Walmart, make it very difficult for people charged with theft to get their record cleared after making a one time mistake. Also, theft is considered a crime of dishonesty or moral turpitude so anyone facing a theft charge should seek immediate help from a lawyer. Don’t let a bad decision turn into a habit, hire our law firm.
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Theft or theft of property allegations in Memphis can arise from a number of situations. Often, these types of charges may arise from a mistake or false accusations. No matter the reason, it is still important to take these charges seriously. Since theft offenses are commonly known as crimes of dishonesty or moral turpitude, they can affect your ability to pursue certain types of jobs or professions, in addition to resulting in ineligibility to be admitted into certain colleges or graduate school programs.
In Tennessee, theft offenses range from simple misdemeanors to serious felonies. A conviction for any of these degrees can lead to probation, prison sentences, fines, restitution, civil penalties and a criminal record.
It is important to remember that if you have been charged with a theft crime in Memphis, you may not necessarily be convicted of that offense. The prosecution has the burden of proving you committed each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden, and any reasonable doubt can result in an acquittal. Therefore, it is essential to contact an experienced Memphis theft attorney to fight the allegations against you.
Tennessee law states that “a person commits theft of property if, with intent to deprive the owner of property, the person knowingly obtains or exercises control over the property without the owner's effective consent.” Basically, you commit theft in Tennessee by unlawfully taking someone else's property while having no intent to give it back to its owner. It should be noted that theft can happen in an instant. We often see cases where someone will conceal an item in their pocket and walk around for a while before checking out. Is this theft? Maybe not depending on your intent. However, the loss prevention officer at that particular store will not wait very long before they detain you and call the police. It's up to the State to prove you intended to steal before you can be convicted of theft of property.
As is the case in many states, Tennessee classifies theft offenses according to the value of the property or services involved in the offense. Let’s take a closer look at each level of theft offense in Tennessee, beginning with misdemeanor theft, which is commonly referred to as petty theft, and is the lowest level of theft offense in Tennessee.
Theft is classified as a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee if the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less. This is a particularly low threshold when you consider other more conservative states like Texas have a $1500 threshold before you're charged with felony theft. The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of no more than 11 months and 29 days, a fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
If the value of the property or services stolen is more than $500, but less than $1,000, then the theft registers as a Class E felony in Tennessee. The punishment for a Class E felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than six years, and a fine of no more than $3,000.
Theft becomes a Class D felony in Tennessee if the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. The punishment for a Class D felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than 12 years, and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Theft is classified as a Class C felony in Tennessee if the value of the property or services stolen is $10,000 or more but less than $60,000. The punishment for a Class C felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than 15 years, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Theft constitutes a Class B felony in Tennessee if the value of the property or services stolen is $60,000 or more. The punishment for a Class B felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than eight years and not more than 30 years, and a fine not to exceed $25,000.
When a person commits theft from a store in Tennessee, and the district attorney does not object, the store owner or seller of the merchandise can seek a civil penalty against the offender, instead of pursuing any criminal penalties for theft against the offender. This situation occurs mostly in the context of shoplifting cases. The amount of the civil penalty depends upon the condition of the stolen merchandise. If the merchandise is not recovered or is returned damaged, the offender will be responsible for paying a penalty that is the greater of either $100, or three times the amount of the damage to the merchandise, including its full retail value if the item is not recovered. If the merchandise is recovered and is still in a sellable condition, the penalty is the greater of $100 or two times the retail price of the merchandise. Keep in mind that this civil penalty is not an option if the listed retail price of the stolen merchandise is more than $500. Also, some stores, like Walmart, do not participate in any form of merchants restitution.
Tennessee theft laws do not specifically address the effect of prior convictions on a subsequent theft charge in Tennessee, but any criminal conviction on your record, whether for a theft related offense or for any other misdemeanor or felony, will almost certainly mean a harsher punishment at a sentencing hearing. Tennessee's criminal sentencing guidelines mandate progressively harsher punishments for people whose criminal history indicates they are a "standard offender," "multiple offender," "persistent offender," or "career offender."
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