If you have been charged with theft or a theft-related crime in Phoenix or anywhere in Arizona, you could be facing stiff penalties. Depending upon the circumstances of your particular case, your theft charge may be a felony. Even as a first time offender, a conviction could land you in prison for years.Theft under Arizona law can involve a lot more than simply taking property that does not belong to you. As an experienced theft crimes defense lawyer, Adam Feldman, founder of The Feldman Law Firm, has defended numerous clients charged with a wide variety of theft offenses. And as a former prosecutor, he was responsible for organizing, preparing and trying cases against people charged with theft crimes. This experience has led to proven results in his cases, and provides his clients with the confidence that their attorney has the talent and ability to obtain the best results possible in their criminal cases.
You might think that the definition of theft under Arizona law is simple, something like wrongfully taking property belonging to someone else. Like so many areas of the law, however, the statutes governing theft offenses are quite involved, sometimes confusing, and often overlapping. Under section 13-1802A of the Criminal Code, theft is defined as follows:
“A person commits theft if, without lawful authority, the person knowingly:
The statute sets forth six separate categories of offenses categorized as theft. To understand each of the various forms of theft listed above, the following summarizes the essential character of each:
In addition to the categories set forth above, there are a number of other offenses specifically enumerated under Arizona law as theft crimes. They are set forth in sections 13-1803 through 13-1819 of the Criminal Code. In each case, there is an aspect of the charge that sets it apart from the general offenses listed in section 13-1802:
Note that there are sometimes subtle differences between and among the various theft crimes. The specific charge may depend upon the issue of knowledge or intent, the means by which a theft is committed, or other factors involved in the specific conduct alleged.
There are additional miscellaneous theft offenses, including removal of a theft detection device; misappropriation of funds of a charter school; unlawful possession, use or alteration of sales receipt or UPC label; and organized retail theft, which requires only that the person stealing the merchandise intends to resell it, or the theft is accomplished using a device, container or other article used in the commission of the crime.
Finally, there are numerous theft and theft-related offenses, such as identity theft (including taking the identity of another person or trafficking in the identity of another person), credit card fraud, business and commercial fraud, organized crime fraud, forgery, possession of a forgery device, burglary, possession of burglary tools, criminal simulation, criminal simulation and others that, while they involve theft as most people commonly understand it, are separately classified under the Arizona Criminal Code.
The penalty for theft is not necessarily determined by the nature of the crime, that is, which of the variations on theft you are accused of; the penalty is often a function of the value of the property or services involved. In these cases, that value sets the level of the offense and with it the possible sentence. Here are the classifications of theft offenses under section 13-1802A:
It is important to recognize that the sentences set forth above are presumptive ranges for first time offenders, and do not include the effects of mitigating or aggravating factors, such as prior criminal history. In addition, the theft statutes provide that in certain circumstances the value of the property may indeed by irrelevant to the level of the charge. If, for example, the property stolen is a gun, the value of which is less than $1,000, the offense is nevertheless a class 6 felony.
With regard to the offenses set forth in sections 13-1803 through 13-1819, the classification, and the resulting range of possible sentencing, may depend upon the value of the property taken, but it may also be affected by such things as the nature of the item taken.
The confusing nature of how theft crimes are categorized in Arizona can be demonstrated using a simple charge such as shoplifting a relatively inexpensive item from a store. Let’s assume it’s an article of clothing worth under $1,000, taken surreptitiously by removing the theft detection device on the item. You might expect that it would lead to a simple charge of shoplifting, in this case a class 1 misdemeanor. But the same conduct may also constitute removal of a theft detection device, which is a class 6 felony. In addition, since the defendant entered a structure with the intent to commit a theft, it could be charged as burglary in the third degree, a class 4 felony. The range of potential charges could therefore lead to a situation in which you are faced not with a maximum of six months in jail, but rather with a sentence of up to three years in prison, even for a first offender with no aggravating factors. This example is not an isolated situation – the sheer volume of theft offenses often involves the state choosing among a variety of different possible charges to determine which ones will be asserted in a given case.
Navigating the various theft statutes is not easy. The number of specific offenses is substantial, as are the penalties. Offenses often overlap one another, and prosecutorial discretion in formulating charges can affect both the crime and the penalty.
It is essential that you retain the services of an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who can protect your interests and cut through these complicated and often confusing criminal statutes. At The Feldman Law Firm, we specialize in representing clients charged with theft offenses and other violations of the criminal law. And as a former prosecutor, Mr. Feldman understands the way prosecutors build their cases and how they determine which charge or charges to file in situations where the conduct may constitute different crimes. He knows how to negotiate with the government to seek to have charges dismissed or reduced, and if it is necessary to take a case to trial, his experience in conducting innumerable jury trials is invaluable.
If you are facing a theft or theft-related charge, call The Feldman Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.
The Feldman Law Firm is located in Phoenix, Arizona and provides criminal defense throughout the state of Arizona. This website is not intended to create a client attorney relationship, nor does communication though this website. This website is for marketing purposes only.The Feldman Law Firm, PLLC has merged with The Law Office of Bret A. Royle. Adam Feldman will still remain the sole attorney of record for all cases retained under The Feldman Law Firm, PLLC.