Theft is handled a number of different ways under Alabama law. The crime encompasses a broad range of acts with statutory maximum penalties that vary from a minimal fine or one year in jail to $30,000 in fines and up to 20 years in jail. Sometimes an individual could commit a theft without even realizing it because of how theft is defined in the Alabama statute.
Anyone charged with theft needs to take the allegations seriously and act quickly to minimize the risk of undue consequences. An experienced Alabama theft lawyer can explain the legal situation, help analyze available evidence, and work to ensure that a strong defense is built for those accused. To learn more or discuss your case, consult with a defense attorney in Alabama today.
What is Considered Theft
The law defines four instances which are counted as theft. According to the Alabama criminal code, an individual commits a theft of property when they knowingly obtain or exert unauthorized control over the property of another, with intent to deprive the owner of their property.
Willfully taking someone else’s belongings with no intention of returning them is what most people think of when they envision theft. A theft occurs as well if someone uses deception to obtain control over another’s property. An example of theft by deception would be a case where a contractor promises to pave a driveway and accepts payment to do so, but never had any intention of performing the work and keeps the money. A third definition of theft is taking stolen property from a law enforcement agency.
A fourth definition of theft is taking property left at or near a drop box for a charitable organization. Many people might not realize that picking up those abandoned items is theft, even if the items are up to 30 feet away from the drop box. An Alabama theft lawyer can help any individual understand the particular laws regarding what is considered theft.
Determining the Severity of the Theft
Alabama law classifies thefts as belonging to a particular class, and that class determines the range of penalties that may be imposed. An experienced theft attorney in Alabama is essential when determining the severity of someone’s theft charge. The primary factor in categorizing a theft is the value of the property at issue, though sometimes the type of property or the circumstances surrounding the theft play a determining role.
When the property involved is worth less than $500, the theft is usually classified as third-degree theft, which is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $6,000 in fines. However, if the stolen property is of a particular type such as certain drugs, firearms, or credit cards, the crime automatically becomes a second-degree theft—a Class C felony—regardless of the value of the property.
A first-degree theft, a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail, is generally any theft involving property worth $2,500 or more. Certain categories of property or circumstances can turn any theft into a first-degree theft. For instance, the theft of any vehicle is a first-degree theft. And if an individual steals property directly off another person, such as in pickpocketing, that crime is automatically a first-degree theft.
Consulting With a Theft Attorney
It is crucial to obtain the help of a theft attorney in Alabama to have someone help who understands the intricacies of both the law and the circumstances involved in your particular case. Sometimes ambiguous circumstances make all the difference in determining whether an incident can be classified as a particular class of theft or even theft at all.