Theft is a type of crime that involves unlawfully taking or using property that belongs to another person or entity. There are many different types of theft charges in most justice systems, ranging from misdemeanor shoplifting to grand theft. Possible punishments will depend on the type of charges filed; some common sentences resulting from theft convictions include fines, parole, and jail time.
Identity theft charges are becoming increasingly common as personal information becomes easier to obtain. Using another person's name, bank account, or credit card without permission can result in identity theft charges being filed. This crime can be particularly damaging since in some cases, purchases made through identity theft can destroy the victim's credit score and financial resources. Identity theft is now considered a federal crime in some regions, punishable by a lengthy jail sentence and forfeiture of any property bought with stolen funds.
Using violence, intimidation, or threats to obtain property is typically considered robbery. Often referred to as armed robbery or mugging, this type of charge often carries a heavier penalty than regular larceny charges, due to the presence of weapons or threat of violence. While some regions have charges specifically for forms of robbery, other courts may file both theft and weapons or assault charges instead.
Stealing that involves deception rather than violence is often referred to as fraud. Fraud theft charges can involve acts of embezzlement, investment schemes, counterfeiting, or even lying on state and federal tax forms. Fraud is often considered a “white collar” crime, as it usually involves no violence and is conducted through business dealings. Despite the use of deception rather than physical force, fraud can be extremely serious and disastrously effect the financial status of victims. Acts of fraud can result in enormous amounts of monetary and property theft, since there are often dozens, if not hundreds, of victims.
Some regions choose to divide theft charges based on the value of the goods taken and method of the crime. In some areas, this division is marked by terms in the theft charges, such as “petty” or “grand”. Theft charges may also be considered felonies or misdemeanors depending on the amount stolen and the use of violence or intimidation. Grand theft or felony charges typically bring much higher penalties than petty or misdemeanor charges. Different jurisdictions may have different means of evaluating where the line is drawn between petty and grand charges; many use a specific dollar amount as a determining factor.