Property rights are protected under both federal and state law. When someone acquires resources through purchase, gifts or inheritance, they control that property and what happens to it until they give or sell the property to someone else. Yet, for various reasons, some people engage in behaviors that violate property rights. Taking jewelry from someone’s dresser while touring a home during an open house is theft, and so is shoplifting, even if the victim is a business and not an individual.
People are often confused about rules that apply to property crimes in Kentucky. There are actually multiple elements that influence the severity of a theft offense and the penalties that the state might impose in the event of alleged criminal wrongdoing. Understanding those factors can help those hoping to fight pending charges at trial.
The value of the assets
Perhaps someone stole a wallet and kept the cash that was inside. The value of the cash will directly determine what charges the state pursues and therefore what penalties the courts hand down after a guilty plea or conviction. Generally, once the total value of the assets adds up to $1,000 or more, prosecutors can seek felony charges instead of misdemeanor charges.
The nature of the theft
Shoplifting generally involves an attempt to alter the price of an item or take it out of the store without paying for it. There may not be any significant risk either to the public or to whoever, other types of theft offenses have a stronger association with violence and collateral damage. Burglaries and robberies, particularly when someone is in possession of a deadly weapon, can theoretically lead to more serious charges and more significant consequences. They will usually be felony charges regardless of the value of the assets involved.
The nature of the resources
The theft of certain types of property or from certain types of victims can lead to more serious charges. For example, one only needs to steal $200 worth of livestock for the state to pursue felony charges. Items stolen from the mail service, oil and gas operations, construction sites and utility companies usually lead to felony charges. So will the theft of a firearm, anhydrous ammonia, credit/debit card numbers and items from cemeteries.
Understanding the factors that influence how the state handles theft charges may help those who are trying to craft a solid defense strategy after a recent arrest.