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Decoding Property Crimes: Types, Penalties, And Potential Defenses (Part 2)

Jun 18, 2024 | Criminal

Property crimes, ranging from theft to arson to burglary, significantly impact individuals and communities. Depending on the severity of the property damage, the value of the stolen goods, the presence of aggravating factors, and the defendant’s criminal history, crimes such as these may be classified as misdemeanors, while others may be classified as felonies.

Understanding these offenses, their legal implications, and the complexities involved in their prosecution is crucial for anyone navigating the justice system. It is vital that you understand the nuances of these charges, their potential consequences, and effective defense strategies that could be used on your behalf.

Last month, we covered everything you need to know about arson charges and burglary charges in part 1 of this blog. This month, we will examine the crime of theft, as well as illustrate the strategies that can be used to successfully defend charges that fall under this umbrella.

It is our goal to empower you with the knowledge you need to move forward with confidence. Whether you’re navigating a legal battle or simply seeking to arm yourself with knowledge, this blog is your go-to resource for unraveling the complexities of property crime law.

Theft

Although they are obviously similar, the crime of theft is not the same as the crime or burglary, nor the crime of robbery. The average person may use all of these words interchangeably in everyday life, but when it comes to the law, each of these are distinct criminal acts.

The general definition of the crime of theft is to intentionally take or carry away someone else’s property without consent or legal right. However, this crime encompasses a great deal of more specific activities, ranging from shoplifting, to theft by embezzlement, to grand larceny.

In Arizona, there are many specific criminal acts that fall under the theft crime category. In fact, there are so many that we won’t be listing them all (though you can read for yourself here). Some include:

  • Controlling property of another with the intent to deprive the other person of such property
  • Controlling property of another while knowing or having reason to believe that the property was stolen
  • Obtaining services without paying for them, while being aware that the services required compensation
  • Taking control, title, use or management of a vulnerable adult’s property while acting in a position or trust and confidence with the intent to deprive them of said property
  • Taking, transmitting, exhibiting, conveying, altering, destroying, concealing, or using a trade secret without the knowledge of the owner
  • Knowingly obtaining or seeking property or services by means of a threat
  • And more.

Typically, the severity of the charges will depend on the value or character of the property that was stolen. For example:

  • If the value is less than $1,000 it is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months
  • $1,000 – $2,000 is a class 6 felony punishable by imprisonment for 6 months to 1 year
  • $2,000 – $3,000 is a class 5 felony punishable by imprisonment for 9 months to 2 years
  • $3,000 – $4,000 is a class 4 felony punishable by imprisonment for 1.5 to 3 years
  • $4,000 – $25,000 is a class 3 felony punishable by imprisonment for  2.5 to 7 years, and
  • $25,000 or more is a class 2 felony punishable by imprisonment for 4 to 10 years

Aggravating factors (such as the use of firearms or weapons at the time of the crime, prior criminal convictions, or multiple victims) could also cause the charges and penalties to be more severe.

Theft Defenses

One of the main defense strategies that a skilled attorney could use to challenge theft allegations is a lack of intent. Because theft charges rely heavily on the intentions of the defendant, proving that they did not intend to permanently deprive the victim of their property could cast a significant amount of reasonable doubt to a jury. Other defenses include:

Claim of right or ownership of property – Although not as simple as telling a jury, “I thought it was mine!”, this defense involves demonstrating that the defendant believed they had a rightful claim to the property, whether through ownership, consent, or misunderstanding.

Mistaken identity – This is a common defense strategy for many types of crimes, and involves arguing that the defendant was wrongly identified as the perpetrator, which can be supported by alibi evidence or discrepancies in witness testimonies.

Consent – Again, theft charges rely heavily on intent, so another possible defense could be that the defendant did, in fact, have consent to take or use the property or service. This can also be proven through witness statements or written agreements.

Return of property – This defense may not always result in the charges being dropped or in a “not guilty” verdict, but it can sometimes be used to negotiate lesser charges or reduced penalties. With this strategy, it is argued that the defendant willingly returned or replaced the stolen property, demonstrating their regret or remorse.

Entrapment – This is another common defense strategy for many types of crimes, and involves arguing that the defendant was induced to commit the crime by a law enforcement officer (usually while they are undercover).

Charged With Theft? Our Lead Criminal Defense Attorney Can Put You In The Best Position For Fighting These Allegations And Protecting Your Reputation!

Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, especially charges as complex as those under the theft umbrella. Our firm can serve as a powerful ally during this challenging time and provide you with a robust defense strategy! Mr. Alatorre has nearly 20 years of experience defending the accused in Arizona, and will thoroughly investigate the evidence against you, as well as identify the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

Using his in-depth knowledge of the legal system, he can negotiate plea deals, attempt to have charges reduced, and even put you in the best position to get your case dismissed! Having a professional advocate on your side ensures that your rights are protected at every stage, alleviating the stress and uncertainty of the legal process. Don’t face this battle alone – call today to book your free and confidential consultation to learn more about how we can safeguard your future!

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