What happens if your charged with theft?

theft from an unwitting person

How bad is a theft charge?

Theft can be a small crime like a pack of gum from the local convenience store. Or theft can be monumental, like car theft. Either way, it is breaking the law, but is theft civil or criminal?  In Virginia, theft is referred to as larceny, and the property involved in the larceny or theft charges law is what determines if it is a civil matter or criminal matter and the theft charges by amount will determine the punishment. 

For clarification, larceny and theft are interchangeable in their meaning and the results. Theft is the process of taking property not yours to permanently deprive the true owner of the property. This usually is money or personal belongings, not larger things like real estate or vehicles. 

In the state of Virginia, where larceny and theft are one in the same, we will refer to larceny as theft going forward.  There are three levels of theft in Virginia, one is petit theft, where the object in question has a value under $1,000. Then there is grand theft, where the object in question has a value over $1,000. The third level of theft is shoplifting, which has its own level of punishment. 

The punishment for each of these crimes is as follows in addition to a fine of $2,500 per charge: 

  • Grand Theft: A Class U Felony with a possible 20-years of incarceration for theft over $1,000 or if the theft was from a person where bodily contact was made, the value of $5 and over. 
  • Petit Theft: A Class I misdemeanor that is punished by maximum of 12 months incarcerated for a value theft under $1,000. 
  • Shoplifting: If the stolen merchandise were concealed, the accused could face Grand Theft  if the value is over $1,000 with the same possible punishment. Same if under $1,000 value, the accused could face the same punishment as with Petit Theft. 

Do you go to jail for first time theft?

Grand theft is a serious crime regardless the monetary value, and as such, in most cases, the accused will be sentence to jail for a period of time. A first time offender facing grand theft should not assume they will receive easy punishment or reduced charges. 

The accused will face a trial with a judge and with their attorney’s guidance, may plead Not Guilty, and leave it to the attorney to negotiate the punishment. Like all criminal cases resulting in arrest, theft charges bail amount is determined at the judge’s discretion and handed down during arraignment. The defendant’s attorney may request a lower bail amount along with the intention of requesting lesser charges. 

Can I go to jail for stealing from work?

You could, there are several variables that will make that determination. What  is the punishment for stealing money from work? You know that stealing is bad, no matter from where you steal or what you stole but stealing paper clips from work is a lot different than stealing money. 

Not only are you at risk of losing your job, but any future employment could also be impacted as well, and then there is the possibility of facing criminal charges. So, for the sake of this article, let’s say you stole $20 from the cash drawer because you’re short on money until payday. That kind of theft could possibly be explained with an apology offered. Your boss may look the other way with a stern reprimand, but you’ll likely lose their trust for a long time. 

If you stole a sizeable amount of money, that is going to have some serious consequences, starting with being fired for gross misconduct. At the very least, you could be suspended without pay and the company investigate the matter to see if there is any other possible thefts. If there are, come clean now could be to your advantage, but most likely, you’re fired is probably the end result. 

So, could you be arrested? Absolutely, if your employer presses charges, you could face theft charges. In Virginia, depending on the amount, it could be Petit Theft or Grand Theft. With this, you’ll have legal fees, fines, and possibility of time behind bars. 

The first thing you should do is hire a criminal attorney, especially if you know that these the matter is theft false charges you’re being wrongly accused .Your attorney will represent you, hopefully to resolve the matter out of court, or if the employer insists on taking  you to court, the attorney will research the case for evidence against you and represent you accordingly. 

If the charges by your employer are correct and your attorney agrees, you may show your willingness to repay your employer and accept the consequences. That may keep them from making a legal case from the situation. 

police car

What evidence is needed for theft?

A prosecutor’s primary job, other than having you convicted of theft, is to prove the case. They must prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, that you took something not belonging to you. The value of the object is not a concern during this part of the case, that will come forth with sentencing. 

If the theft is shoplifting for example, the victim, i.e. the store, will need provide the prosecutor their evidence. With most stores today, video surveillance is usually their evidence. They can also use eyewitness, which could be an employee or a security guard. In shoplifting cases, it can also be they found the item(s) in question on your person. In that case of evidence, they will need one or more employees witness the removal of the item(s) from your person and if you don’t have a receipt or there is not video showing you were checked out a register, that is usually sufficient evidence of theft.

Theft is a serious matter, and a person that is habitually stealing, when caught and arrested, the judge may order professional help be sought such as counseling. No matter the value of the item(s) stolen, if this counseling can reduce your punishment, it is in your best interest to follow through with the time, as it may help you more than you realize you need. Need help with theft bail in Halifax, VA, Danville, VA, and Chatham, VA? Call 434-237-2245 today.