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In Tennessee, theft offenses are now consolidated into two categories: theft of property and theft of services. This means that embezzlement, false pretense, fraudulent conversion, and similar crimes are prosecuted under the theft of property or theft of services statutes.

Theft of property is defined as (1) knowingly obtaining or exercising control over someone else’s property, (2) without the owner’s consent , and (3) with the intent to deprive that person of his or her property. Examples include stealing your neighbor’s lawn mower or taking $100 out of your son’s little league fund, of which you are the treasurer.

Theft of services can be summarized as not providing proper payment for services rendered to you or diverting a service to yourself that you are not entitled to. It is a crime to obtain services by deception, fraud, coercion, forgery, false statement, or other means to avoid paying for the service. Alternatively, one commits theft of services if he or she has control over the disposition of services to another person and he or she knowingly divert those services to his or her own benefit. Lastly, fleeing from an establishment (i.e. restaurant or hotel) without paying for services rendered is a theft of service. An example of this crime is the classic “dine and dash” scenario.

Misdemeanor or Felony Theft

The penalties for theft of property or services will depend on the value of the property or service.

  • $1,000 or less: Class A Misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail.
  • $1,000-$2,500: Class E Felony, which carries a potential sentence of 1 to 6 years in jail.
  • $2,500-$10,000: Class D Felony, which carries a potential sentence of 2 to 12 years in jail.
  • $10,000-$60,000: Class C Felony, which carries a potential sentence of 3 to 15 years in jail.
  • $60,000-$250,000: Class B Felony, which carries a potential sentence of 8 to 30 years in jail.
  • $250,000 or more: Class A Felony, which carries a potential sentence of 15 to 60 years in jail.

Theft of a firearm carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.

Possible Defenses

Your attorney must ensure that the state properly proves every element of their case, including the value of the property that was allegedly stolen. Additionally, your attorney may assert specific affirmative defenses on your behalf, such as three listed below.

  1. The person acted under an honest claim of right to the property or service.
  2. The person acted in the good faith belief the person had a right to the property or service.
  3. The person obtained or exercised control over the property honestly believing the owner would have consented.

Shoplifting requires the state to prove the elements of theft, the owner of the property must be a merchant and the theft must have been committed as outlined in the statute. The statute encompasses numerous situations such as physically taking an item from the store without paying, switching price tags with a cheaper item so as to pay less than the stated price, and pulling the fire alarm in order to facilitate the theft.

A Word of Warning to Independent Sellers

Many thefts occur when buying or selling items online or through an app. When doing this, be sure to maintain good records of your communication with the person you are selling to, as well as records of what you are selling or buying, and be cautious when meeting in person.

Contact Baker Associates

The owners of property have the option to pursue civil penalties for theft, so it is important to retain an attorney who is comfortable and confident in both civil and criminal law. If you are charged with a theft crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys with Baker Associates for a consultation. We have offices in Nashville and Sevierville to best serve Middle and Eastern Tennessee.

The difference between Baker Associates and other law firms is that people matter more than profit. Contact the attorneys who care.