If you are charged with committing a theft crime in Missouri – and whether you are innocent or guilty of committing the theft how can you defend yourself against the charge? The first step is obtaining the advice and services of the right Jefferson County criminal defense attorney.
What constitutes the crime of theft in Missouri, and what are the various theft charges? Which thefts are felonies and which are misdemeanors? What are the penalties for theft convictions? And what defenses can your lawyer offer to cast doubt on the state’s case against you?
If you’ll continue reading this brief discussion of theft, your rights, and the law in Missouri, these questions will be answered, and you will also learn what steps to take if you are accused of committing a theft crime in the State of Missouri – now or in the future.
How Does Missouri Define Theft Crimes?
Someone commits a theft in Missouri when he or she takes another person’s property or services with no intention of returning it to the lawful owner, without the owner’s permission, or by coercion or deceit. It’s also against the law in Missouri to receive any item that you believe or know is stolen.
Like most states, Missouri classifies serious theft crimes as felonies and less serious thefts as misdemeanors. Whether a criminal theft charge in this state is a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the value of the stolen property, the defendant’s criminal record, and the kind of property that was stolen.
For example, the theft of dangerous items like firearms, explosive devices, anhydrous ammonia, and liquid nitrogen is a felony in Missouri, without regard to the actual monetary worth of the item.
How Does Missouri Classify Theft Crimes?
It is a Class A felony in Missouri to steal a rail tank car, tank trailer, tank truck, bulk storage tank, field applicator, field tank, or field nurse containing any quantity of anhydrous ammonia (which is needed for making methamphetamine).
A Class A felony charge in Missouri is punishable upon conviction with ten years to life in prison. It is a Class B felony in this state to steal any other property that contains anhydrous ammonia or:
- to take property that contains liquid nitrogen
- to commit a second theft offense stealing captive wildlife or livestock valued over $3,000
- to take livestock worth over $10,000
- to take any property from any financial institution
It is also a Class B felony in Missouri to take a watercraft, motor vehicle, or aircraft if you have two previous theft convictions within the last ten years. Class B felonies may be penalized upon conviction with five to fifteen years in prison.
What Are the Other Theft Felonies?
The theft of property or services worth $25,000 or above is a Class C felony in this state. Class C felonies are punishable upon conviction with three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Several different types of theft are categorized in Missouri as Class D felonies punishable upon conviction with up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, including the theft of:
- services or property worth $750 or above but worth under $25,000
- property from the victim’s person
- a credit card or a controlled substance
- a firearm, explosive device, watercraft, aircraft, or motor vehicle
- a voter registration list or book, an unrecorded property deed, or a will
- certain captive wildlife, live fish, or livestock
- ammonium nitrate
- any item stolen to analyze, test, or produce methamphetamine or amphetamine
- any item used to transport fuels, conduct electricity, or send wire communications
Stealing any animal in Missouri (other than the captive wildlife, live fish, or livestock listed above) is a Class E felony that may be penalized upon conviction with up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What Thefts Are Misdemeanors?
First offenses in Missouri involving stolen property valued at under $150 are Class D misdemeanors punishable upon conviction with a $500 fine.
When stolen services or property are worth more than $150 but under $750, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.
What Defenses May Be Offered Against a Theft Charge?
In theft cases, the prosecution must prove criminal intent in order to convict a defendant. In Missouri, if the defendant honestly believed that he or she was entitled to the property or that the property owner would have let the defendant take the property, that belief is an admissible defense against a theft charge.
The other defenses that a Missouri theft crimes attorney may offer against theft charges include:
- Another person committed the theft, and the defendant was framed.
- No theft took place, and the charge against the defendant was fabricated.
- The defendant was misidentified by one or several witnesses.
How Is Shoplifting Handled?
In Missouri’s legal system, there is no distinction between shoplifting and other types of theft, with this exception: Shoplifters (or parents or guardians if the shoplifter is a minor) may also be sued in civil court by retailers for:
- the retail price of any stolen merchandise
- incidental costs to the retailer up to $100
- punitive damages from $100 to $250 payable to the retailer
- the retailer’s court costs and lawyers’ fees
What Else Should You Know About Theft Crimes?
If you are charged with a theft crime in Missouri, schedule a consultation with a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Your defense attorney will protect your legal rights and fight aggressively and effectively to bring your case to its best possible outcome.
A theft conviction entails more than legal penalties. A criminal conviction can impair your ability to find housing or employment or to qualify for a loan or a professional license. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, a theft conviction could trigger a deportation hearing.
Don’t even consider representing yourself in a criminal matter. The laws are complicated, too much will be at risk, and any mistake will be used against you. If you’re charged with theft in Missouri, you must obtain the advice and services of a Missouri theft crimes attorney at once.