THEFT IN ARIZONA
If you’ve been charged with an Arizona theft crime, unfortunately you’re not looking at just a simple slap on the wrist if convicted. Whether the theft is a misdemeanor or a felony, the crime may not necessarily expose you to substantial jail or prison time, but the havoc an Arizona theft conviction reaps regarding professional licensing, background checks, job opportunities and security clearance can be devastating. Having the facts of your case evaluated by a trained criminal defense attorney will provide you the best opportunity to avoid a conviction and the future collateral consequences.
Arizona Theft Definition
Arizona theft cases are defined in A.R.S. § 13-1802. Pursuant to the statute, you are guilty of theft if you knowingly:
- Control someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them;
- Convert for an unauthorized term or use services or property of another entrusted to you or placed in your possession for a limited, authorized term or use;
- Obtain services or property of another by means of any material misrepresentation;
- Control lost, mislaid or misdelivered property of another under circumstances providing means of inquiry as to the true owner;
- Control property of another knowing or having reason to know that the property was stolen;
- Obtain services known to you to be available only for compensation without paying; or
- Without lawful authority, you knowingly take control, title, use or management of a vulnerable adult’s property while acting in a position of trust and confidence and with the intent to deprive the vulnerable adult of the property
SIDE NOTE: Convert under Arizona theft law means to wrongfully use, alter or destroy property of another.
Each of the examples above provides the basis for an Arizona theft prosecution. Whether the theft will be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depends entirely on the value of the item or services controlled or converted.
Misdemeanor Theft Defined
Misdemeanor theft, often referred to as “petty theft,” applies to cases where an individual has stolen property or services valued under $1,000. Misdemeanor theft is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Penalties for Theft – Misdemeanor Theft
For a first-time offender in the state of Arizona, you may be sentenced to:
- A fine (not to exceed $2,500);
- Anywhere from 0 days to 6 months jail;
- Restitution – repayment of the item or services stolen;
- Probation (up to 3 years);
- Possible classes.
Statute of Limitations – Misdemeanor Theft
The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor theft charge is one year. This means that a person can be charged for up to one year after the crime was committed. If the Arizona theft charges constitutes a felony, then the felony theft statute of limitations would apply and allow charges to be brought up to seven years after the crime was committed.
Felony Theft Defined
Felony theft occurs when you commit a theft pursuant and A.R.S. § 13-1802 and the value of the goods of services stolen exceeds $1,000.00. In essence, there are different felony classifications depending on the value of the property or services. They are as follows:
- Class 6 Felony Theft – Stolen property or services valued between $1,000-$2,000;
- Class 5 Felony Theft – Stolen property or services valued between $2,000-$3,000;
- Class 4 Felony Theft – Stolen property or services valued between $3,000-$4,000;
- Class 3 Felony Theft – Stolen property or services valued between $4,000-$24,999;
- Class 2 Felony Theft – Stolen property or services valued at $25,000 and above.
The felony theft statute of limitations in Arizona is seven years. This means that an individual can be charged for theft up to seven years after the crime was committed.
Penalties for Theft – Felony Theft
The penalties for theft in Arizona are serious. Just how serious the penalty for theft is, is determined by the level of the felony theft. They are as follows:
Class 6 Felony Theft
- Probation; or
- Between four months and a maximum of 2 years in prison.
Class 5 Felony Theft
- Probation; or
- Between six months and a maximum of 2.5 years in prison.
Class 4 Felony Theft
- Probation; or
- Between 1 and a maximum of 3.75 years in prison.
Class 3 Felony Theft
- Probation; or
- Between 2 and a maximum of 8.5 years in prison.
Class 2 Felony Theft
- Probation; or
- Between 3 and a maximum of 12.5 years in prison.
IMPORTANT: If a person is convicted of a class 2 felony theft pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1802(1)-(3) and the dollar amount alleged exceeds $100,000.00. the person is not eligible for probation and must serve a prison sentence of between 3 and 12.5 years.
Penalties for Theft – Other Collateral Consequences
In addition to any penalties for theft may face from the courts after an Arizona theft charge, there are other penalties that many people face. Arizona theft charges have substantial collateral consequences because they are known as a “crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT).” This legal categorization means that the crime is generally considered depraved or immoral. A conviction for a CIMT offense can have consequences even greater than those some suffer through the criminal court system. Other penalties for theft pursuant to a collateral theory include:
- Professional Licenses. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, those licensed to sell securities, insurance and annuities will have to report any conviction of a theft crime. Some licenses even require that the professional report having been charged with the crime, even if the crime is later dismissed. Because the crime is a CIMT, many professionals are required to report to licensing boards, charges and convictions for crimes that constitute legally immoral behavior.
- Immigration. As discussed above, theft crimes carry a CIMT distinction and create problems in immigration. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(a)(i), convictions for theft are normally a deportable offense depending on the applicant, the time frame and the exact crime for which you are found guilty.
- Employment Background Checks. Many major corporations, including major retailers, won’t even let you operate a cash register if you’ve been convicted of a theft crime.
- Security Clearance. Government clearance needed for certain government positions as well as employers that contract work with the state and federal agencies generally require a crime-free background.
- DPS Fingerprint Clearance Card. A theft conviction can result in the suspension of your DPS fingerprint card. However, a good cause exception may be available.
- Housing and Loans. Many lenders are unwilling to lend to those convicted of certain theft crimes. A conviction for felony theft will normally have to be reported on a mortgage application, student loan affidavit and all Small Business Association loans which will normally result in denial of the application for the prescribed period.
Defenses to Theft
The defenses of defense that you may want to raise will depend on the specific facts of your case. However, some of the more common defenses to theft include:
- Unreliable Investigation and Evidence. This involves attacking the quality of the police’s investigation and the reliability of the evidence used against you. Your attorney should consider attacking what evidence was preserved and not preserved, the quality of the witnesses, the witness statements, the valuation of the items or services allegedly stolen, as well as the quality of the police reports and record keeping.
- Knowledge and Mental State. In Arizona theft cases, the prosecution must prove that you knew certain things or that you possessed a desire to do or not do certain things. Attacking the ability to prove your knowledge, motive and mental state can help to reduce or dismiss charges.
- Mistaken Identity. If you are charged with an Arizona theft crime on the basis of eyewitness identification, then you will want to look into attacking the eyewitness’s testimony. Eyewitness testimony has been shown to be one of the most unreliable types of evidence. Other times, suggestive photo lineups and mistaken identification in video leads to wrongful arrests.
- Mere Presence. If you were simply at a store when an Arizona theft was being committed, then you may want to raise a mere presence defense. If you were merely present at the crime scene, then you did not have any criminal intent and did not take part in the crime.
- Constitutional Challenges. Your attorney may also raise defenses to theft by way of legal challenges such as Miranda Violations, illegal search and seizure violations and right to counsel violations.
- Value Theory. Because the Arizona theft definition requires that the prosecution prove a specific dollar amount, you can often be successful in arguing a reduced value of the item or service stolen.
- Charging Theory. Depending on what section of the Arizona theft statute the state chose to charge you under, you may be able to avoid mandatory sentencing requirements. While theft of more than $100,000.00 does require mandatory prison, it only does so when charged pursuant to the first three theories of theft, under the statute. Prosecutors often do not know this or forget this, when charging theft cases that exceed $100,000.00. They attempt to remedy the situation by alleging an amount in excess of $100,000 but that alone will not make you prison mandatory.
Other Avenues of Dismissal of Arizona Theft Charges
There are several other ways under law to have your Arizona theft case dismissed that don’t involve winning a legal challenge, a victory at trial or having the prosecution dismiss your case. The most common avenues of dismissal through negotiation by an experienced theft lawyer are as follows:
- Diversion Agreement. Diversion agreements, or deferred prosecution agreements are plea agreements that allow your case to be dismissed after you have successfully completed some type of requirement such as repaying the value of the item, attending classes or completing community service.
- Misdemeanor Compromise. For misdemeanor Arizona theft charges, there is a way for a person to engage in a civil compromise. Although often left unexplored, a misdemeanor compromise pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-3981 is an excellent way to avoid jail time, reduce fines and have your case dismissed.
Example. You are accused of stealing your neighbor’s lawn mower. If the neighbor agrees, you can simply pay money for the stolen lawn mower in exchange for the criminal case being dismissed. It is important to note, however, when you have been accused of a crime, you are generally forbidden from making contact with the victim. As such, misdemeanor compromises must be handled by an experienced theft lawyer, a prosecutor, a judges or the victim advocate. Simply contacting the victim and asking to buy your way out of a crime may constitute witness tampering.
Both diversion and a misdemeanor compromise are plea offers to dismissal which should be handled an experienced theft lawyer in conjunction with the prosecutor, victim and sometimes the judge. Be sure to discuss these dismissal avenues with the facts of your case when having your charges evaluated by an attorney.
Common Arizona Theft Offenses
Arizona theft cases can take many different forms and can be charged under several different legal theories. However, the most common forms of theft in Arizona include:
- Shoplifting. Shoplifting pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1805 is far and away the most common form of Arizona theft. Shoplifting occurs when an individual enters a store and conceals or leaves with an item without paying for the item listed for sale. The punishment for shoplifting depends on the value of the item stolen or concealed and factors such as; use of a device; use of an accomplice and others. Read more
- Organized Retail Theft. A crime encompassed within many misdemeanor shoplifting schemes, organized retail theft pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1819 occurs when a person shoplifts with the intent of selling the proceeds afterwards or if the person uses an artifice, instrument, container, device or other article to facilitate the shoplift. Organized retail theft is a class 4 felony in Arizona.
- Theft from an Employer (Retail). Another common Arizona theft charge occurs when an employee commits a theft from an employer. In a retail capacity, this form of Arizona theft normally happens when an employee takes items by using insider knowledge of the business’ theft control system or by removing items through employee entrances. Other common Arizona theft from an employer schemes occur when an employee allows an accomplice to return stolen items or exit the store without detection.
- Theft from an Employer (Non-Retail). Schemes of Arizona theft from an employer in a non-retail capacity generally center around theft of inventory, supplies and behind the scenes sales of services. Regardless of the scheme or vehicle of theft, theft from an employer can take many forms and is often a felony by way of both dollar amount and manner of theft.
- Embezzlement. Severely punished under Arizona law, embezzlement is a theft charge that is normally encompassed in more serious charges including fraudulent transfers and forgery allegations. Most embezzlement scheme are happen in the context of employment.
Other Arizona Theft Related Offenses
A theft charge is not an all-encompassing offense. There are a variety of Arizona theft related offenses that come with different penalties altogether. Please visit the linked pages below or check out a brief description of each of these offenses.
- Theft by Extortion. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1804, theft by extortion occurs when a person threatens another person in order to obtain money, property or services. The type of force threatened and the status of the person making the threat, determine the classification and theft by extortion penalties. Read more
- Robbery. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1902, robbery is committed when an individual takes another person’s property against their will, uses or threatens to use force against the individual if they do not surrender their property, or attempt to coerce the victim through force during the course of the robbery.
- Aggravated Robbery. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1903, a robbery charge becomes an aggravated robbery charge when any of the following factors apply during a robbery:
- A victim was physically harmed during the robbery;
- A weapon was used during the robbery; or
- There were multiple offenders committing the robbery at a time
- Armed Robbery. According to A.R.S. § 13-1904, armed robbery is simply a robbery with a dangerous weapon or hte threat of a dangerous weapon used by the person or an accomplice.
- Burglary. Pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 13-1506, 07 and 08, burglary is committed when an individual unlawfully breaks into another individual’s home with the intent to steal any kind of property. There are different classifications of burglary charges (first, second and third degree burglary) depending on the circumstances of the offense.
- Joyriding. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1803, joyriding or unlawful use of means of transportation, occurs when a person knowingly controls another person’s means of transportation without the intent to control it permanently. It is felony in Arizona to be either the driver or to be a passenger – provided the prosecution can prove the passenger knew the car was stolen.
- Auto Theft. According to A.R.S. § 13-1814, a person commits auto theft, sometimes known as theft of means of transportation, when the person without lawful authority, knowingly:
- Controls someone’s means of transportation with the intent to permanently deprive;
- Converts someone’s means of transportation that is entrusted to or placed in the person’s possession for a limited, authorized term or use; Obtains someone’s means of transportation by means of any material misrepresentation with intent to permanently deprive;
- Controls someone’s means of transportation that is lost or misdelivered under circumstances providing means of inquiry as to the true owner; or
- Controls someone’s means of transportation knowing that the property is stolen.
Auto theft is a Class 3 felony and punishable anywhere from probation to 8.75 years in prison.
- Trafficking in Stolen Property. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-2307, this offense occurs when an individual uses a stolen means of payment, such as a credit or a debit card, to purchase items or transact business without any permission from the cardholder. Trafficking in stolen property may also occur when an individual steals another person’s property and resells or trades it.
Arizona Theft Layer
If you have been charged with an Arizona theft offense you will be facing challenges both in court and in your personal life. With jail time, fines, probation and other collateral consequences as likely penalties for theft, an experienced Arizona theft lawyer can mean the difference between a conviction and a not guilty finding. At Feldman & Royle, we have successfully defended those charged with both misdemeanor theft and felony theft in plea negotiations and at trial. We offer a free consultation to answer question and help clients to learn more about their charges, penalties and possible defenses.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the felony theft statute of limitations?
- The felony theft statute of limitations is 7 years in Arizona.
What is the misdemeanor theft statute of limitations?
- The misdemeanor theft statute of limitations is 1 year in Arizona.
What is a Misdemeanor compromise?
- In Arizona, you may be eligible to have your case dismissed pursuant to a misdemeanor compromise. To qualify, the victim and defendant agree to a civil payment in exchange for the charges being dismissed.
What are the penalties for misdemeanor theft in Arizona?
- For a first offense misdemeanor theft charge in Arizona, the penalty in anywhere from 6 months in jail to probation and no jail. Common plea agreements call for a minimal jail time, a fine, probation and repayment of the stolen item. Felony theft often has much harsher consequences.
What are the penalties for felony theft in Arizona?
- The penalties for felony theft in Arizona range from probation and no jail to 12.5 years in prison depending on the value of the item or services stolen.