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How do courts determine sentencing for theft convictions?

Facing theft charges is intimidating, especially if one does not know the potential penalties. Courts will consider many different factors when determining the sentence.

For theft criminal charges, the first thing courts will consider is the type and value of the stolen property. If the property is less than $1,000 in New York, the crime qualifies as a petty theft and classified as a misdemeanor. For more valuable property, the accused may be charged with grand theft, which is a felony. Misdemeanors generally carry lesser fines and prison sentences of less than a year, whereas felonies may lead to hefty fines and longer prison sentences.

In addition, courts will consider the alleged offender's criminal history and whether they have ever committed a theft before. A first-time offender will often receive a lighter sentence than someone who has been charged and convicted multiple times.

On the other hand, courts will also consider mitigating circumstances. For example, if the defendant has no criminal record and played a minor role in the theft, the judge may grant them a lighter sentence.

In addition to the strictly legal consequences of a crime, keep in mind that there may also be long-term consequences that could affect one even after they serve their time. Many people convicted of theft, particularly those convicted of a felony, may struggle to rebuild their reputations and find employment. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how a theft conviction can change one's whole life and will fight for their rights to make sure to get a fair sentence. It is complicated, but an attorney can help.

Source:, "Theft Penalties and Sentencing," accessed on Nov. 13, 2017

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