Depending on the specific circumstances of the crime, theft laws in Maryland can be quite complex. The severity of the charges and varying degrees of penalties are directly impacted by several factors. Understanding the complexities of Maryland’s theft laws is crucial for anyone facing theft charges. The distinctions between a felony crime and misdemeanor theft charges and the differences between district court and circuit court proceedings can significantly impact the outcome of your theft case.
What Does the State of Maryland Consider Theft?
Theft, according to Maryland law, is the unauthorized taking or control of another person's property with the intent to deprive the owner of their possession. The general definition of a theft crime encompasses a wide range of violations.
Some common examples of theft crimes in Maryland include:
- Larceny: The act of taking someone else's property without their consent and with the intention of keeping it permanently.
- Shoplifting: The act of taking merchandise from a store without paying for it or attempting to pay less than the actual price by altering price tags or using other deceptive tactics.
- Embezzlement: The act of taking money or property entrusted to you (usually as an employee or fiduciary) and using it for personal gain.
- Receiving Stolen Property: The act of knowingly possessing or receiving property that has been stolen, with the intent to benefit from the stolen property.
- Auto Theft: The act of stealing a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.
- Identity Theft: The act of using someone else's personal information without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
While many actions can be classified as theft crimes, there are some instances when taking or using someone else's property may not be considered theft under Maryland law.
- Borrowing: If a person takes someone else's property with the owner's permission and with the intent to return it, this is generally not considered theft. However, if the borrower fails to return the property as agreed or uses it in an unauthorized manner, this may become a theft crime.
- Lost Property: Finding lost property and keeping it without making a reasonable effort to locate the owner is not necessarily considered theft unless the finder knows the identity of the owner or has reason to believe they can easily determine the owner's identity.
- Mistake: If a person unintentionally takes someone else's property, believing it to be their own or having a legal right to it, this may not be considered theft. However, if the person later discovers the mistake and still chooses to keep the property, this may become a theft crime.
It is important to note that each case is unique, and whether an action constitutes theft under Maryland law may depend on the specific circumstances and evidence involved. Consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help clarify the distinctions between theft crimes and non-theft actions, as well as provide guidance on the best course of action if you or someone you love is facing theft-related charges.
Felonies vs. Misdemeanors: What's the Difference?
In Maryland, theft crimes can be classified as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the value of the property stolen and other factors. Felonies are more serious offenses that carry harsher penalties, while misdemeanors are less severe.
Several factors can influence whether a theft crime is charged as a felony or misdemeanor in Maryland:
- Value of stolen property: The value of the property stolen plays a significant role in determining the severity of the charge. Theft of property worth less than $100 is considered a misdemeanor, while theft of property valued at $100 or more is a felony. The penalties increase as the value of the stolen property increases.
- Prior convictions: If the defendant has prior theft convictions, they may face more severe charges and penalties.
- Type of property: Certain types of property, such as firearms, motor vehicles, and controlled substances, may result in more severe theft charges.
In Maryland, theft crimes can be categorized into several felony classifications based on the value of the stolen property:
- Theft of property valued at $100 to less than $1,500: This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
- Theft of property valued at $1,500 to less than $25,000: This is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Theft of property valued at $25,000 to less than $100,000: This is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
- Theft of property valued at $100,000 or more: This is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
District Court vs. Circuit Court: Determining Which Court Handles Your Case
In Maryland, theft cases can be handled in either the District Court or the Circuit Court, depending on the severity of the charge and other factors.
The District Court handles misdemeanor theft cases and some felony theft cases.
Cases heard in the District Court include:
- Misdemeanor theft of property worth less than $100
- Misdemeanor theft of property worth $100 to less than $1,500 (if the defendant waives their right to a jury trial)
- Felony theft of property worth $1,500 to less than $25,000 (if the defendant waives their right to a jury trial)
District Court cases are typically resolved more quickly than those in Circuit Court, and defendants do not have the right to a jury trial in District Court.
Cases heard in Circuit Court include:
- Felony theft of property worth $1,500 to less than $25,000 (if the defendant requests a jury trial)
- Felony theft of property worth $25,000 to less than $100,000 (if the defendant requests a jury trial)
- Felony theft of property worth $100,000 or more (if the defendant requests a jury trial)
In circuit court, defendants have the right to a jury trial, and the proceedings are typically more formal and lengthier than cases heard in District Court.
The circuit court handles more serious felony theft cases, as well as cases that have been appealed from the District Court.
Contact Matthew Penick Law Today
When your freedom and reputation are on the line, you need an attorney to help you fight for a fair and just outcome. The theft attorney at Matthew Penick Law understands the nuances of the Maryland legal system, including the distinctions determining whether a case will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
If you or someone you know is facing theft charges in Maryland, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help navigate the intricacies of the state's theft laws and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.
Call (410) 618-0863 or contact us online right now to schedule a consultation with our team today.