What is the Definition of “Theft” Under Arizona Law?
When most people think of theft, they imagine a simple case of taking something that doesn’t belong to you. But under Arizona law, there are many variations in the manner in which the crime of theft may be committed. Here are some of the basic types of theft charges, as set forth in Chapter 18 of the Arizona Criminal Code:
- Controlling another person’s property with intent to deprive the owner of that property.
- Converting to one’s own use property or services entrusted to him for a limited term, or a limited use.
- Obtaining property or services by means of a material misrepresentation, with the intent to deprive the other person of the property or services.
- Finding lost or mislaid property of another person, having the means to inquire as to the owner’s identity, and failing to make reasonable efforts to notify the owner.
- Taking control of another person’s property with knowledge (or having reason to believe) that it was stolen.
- Obtaining services that are available only for compensation without paying (or agreeing to pay) for those services.
- Unlawful use of someone else’s means of transportation (defined under the statute as any vehicle), without the intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession.
- Theft of means of transportation. This requires intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession of the vehicle.
- Failure to return leased property (without notice and permission) without good cause within 72 hours of the time required for its return under the rental agreement.
- Theft by extortion, which consists of obtaining or seeking to obtain goods or services through a threat. The threat can be of physical injury, property damage or other crime, accusation of a crime, or exposure of a secret which would subject a person to ridicule or hatred (or harm a person’s credit or their business), among others.
- Issuing a bad check is likewise considered a theft offense under Arizona law. It is defined as issuing or passing a check with knowledge that you do not have sufficient funds on deposit with the drawee (the bank or other depository) to cover that check in full.
- Failure to return a motor vehicle subject to a security interest (lien). This offense requires a default of not less than 90 days in payment of the lien, notification from the creditor containing language specified in the statute, failure to cure the default, and failure, with intent to hinder the creditor from enforcing his security interest, to either return the vehicle or allow the creditor to take possession.
- Theft through use of a power of attorney.
- Improper removal, possession or use of a theft protection device.
- Fraudulent possession of retail sales receipts or UPC (bar code) labels or a device that produces such receipts or labels.
- Organized retail theft. This requires retail theft with intent to resell the goods, or use of a container or “device” to facilitate the theft of the goods.
These are just some examples of different theft charges. There are also other crimes that most people consider to be theft, but which are separately classified in Arizona. Two examples are credit card theft (classified along with credit card fraud, credit card forgery, and other credit card offenses); and identity theft (classified along with forgery, criminal impersonation, and other related crimes).
In addition to the overlap in the definition of many of these offenses, the particular label that is placed on a charge can have a significant impact on the potential penalties that may be applicable in the event you are convicted.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting, also referred to as retail theft, can consist of a number of different acts. They include taking goods without paying; charging a purchase to a person without that person’s authority; charging a purchase to a fictitious person; obtaining goods for less than the purchase price by, for example, switching labels; taking goods and moving them from one container to another; or concealing the goods. Whatever the particulars of the case, the law requires proof that you intended to deprive the other person of the goods. The statute further provides that certain acts (for example, concealment of the goods) can carry a presumption that you possessed the requisite intent.
What is Theft of Services?
Under Arizona law, A.R.S. 13-802, theft of services occurs when an individual knows that services are only available for some type of compensation, uses those services and then fails to compensate.
Common examples of theft of services include:
- Failing to pay for food at a restaurant before leaving – dine and dash;
- Skipping out on a bar tab without fully paying the bill;
- Taking a cab or taxi without payment at the end of the fare;
- Disputes over payment of services rendered – professional services, landscaping, handyman work etc.
The penalties for a conviction of theft of services depends almost exclusively on the value of the services. Generally speaking, if cost of the services is less than $1,000 the offense is a class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the value of the services in dispute is greater than $1,000, the offense is typically charged as a felony.
In defending theft of services allegations, the nature of the agreement, whether payment was ever attempted and the actually (not estimated) cost of the services are factors experienced criminal defense attorneys utilize to prevail on behalf of clients. At Feldman & Royle we have successfully defended theft of services allegations by aggressively attacking the underlying facts of the alleged misrepresentation.
Penalties in Arizona Theft Cases
The potential consequences of a theft conviction will depend upon a number of different factors. Many thefts carry penalties that are related to the value of the item allegedly stolen. The penalty, however, can also be a function of the nature of the item or items in question. Moreover, the manner in which the theft was supposedly performed can also impact the potential sentence. Here are some examples:
- Shoplifting an item worth less than $1,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor. But if the item is a firearm, it is a class 6 felony.
- Theft by extortion is always a felony.
- Unlawful use of a means of transportation is always a felony.
- Organized retail theft is always a felony.
- Issuing a bad check is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless the amount of the check is $5,000 or more, in which case it is a felony.
- Theft of most goods with a value of less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor, but if the property is taken from the person of another, it is a felony.
The examples listed above demonstrate how the numerous theft laws interact with one another. They also point out the need, if you are facing a theft charge, to hire an attorney who understands the law, and who can wade through the various statutes and determine if the charges in your case are appropriate given the factual allegations against you. Having an experienced and forceful advocate in your corner could determine in the first instance whether you end up facing a misdemeanor charge or a felony.
Defending Theft Crimes
As your case moves forward, there is prosecutorial discretion in whether, for example, to downgrade a charge. How the prosecutor treats your case will be a function of a number of factors. If your lawyer has a reputation for being an experienced and knowledgeable litigator who will fight for his client’s rights from beginning to end, and who will effectively put the prosecutor “through his paces,” you are more apt to see flexibility, and with it the application of discretion that will inure to your benefit. Contact Feldman & Royle to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Call Feldman & Royle today at 602-899-8000 for a free, confidential consultation.