Defenses to Felony Theft

Aggressive Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Defending the Rights of Clients Throughout Maricopa County

Arizona criminal law provides for misdemeanor theft in limited situations; however, the majority of theft cases are considered felony offenses. A conviction for felony theft can carry a sentence of up to ten years in jail. Thus, if you face these serious charges, it is imperative that you understand the defenses to felony theft. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Phoenix criminal defense attorney has more than 25 years of hands-on experience aggressively defending the rights of good people charged with serious crimes. We can help you understand what your exposure is, evaluate all your options, and will create a compelling defense in hopes of avoiding a conviction altogether.

What is Felony Theft in Arizona?

Unlike many other states, Arizona law is typically unconcerned with how someone carries out a theft offense. For example, Arizona has a broad theft statute that encompasses most of the theft crimes that may be listed as individual offenses in other states. For example, under Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1802, any of the following actions can give rise to felony theft charges:

  • Taking or exercising control over the property of another person with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property;
  • Obtaining services from another by misleading the person providing the services;
  • Using another’s property for a reason other than what they allowed;
  • Possessing property that you know is stolen;
  • Keeping lost property without trying to find who it belonged; and
  • Taking control over the property of a vulnerable adult with the intent to permanently deprive them of the property.

Not all theft offenses fall within § 13-1802, however. For example, shoplifting, writing bad checks, and theft of trade secrets all have their own statute, which provides different elements and punishments.

Arizona theft crimes range in seriousness from Class 6 felonies to Class 2 felonies. For the most part, the seriousness of a theft crime depends on the value of the goods or services that were allegedly stolen. For example, the theft of items totaling $2,000 to $2,999 in value is a Class 5 felony, punishable by nine months to 2 years in prison, and the theft of items totaling $4,000 to $24,999 in value is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2.5 to 7 years in prison.

How to Defend Against Felony Theft Charges

There are several defenses to felony theft, some of which may result in the complete withdrawal of charges, while others can reduce the seriousness of the crime. For example, mistakenly taking someone’s property is a defense against theft charges. However, the mistaken belief must be honestly held, and it also must be a reasonable mistake.

Intoxication, although rarely a defense, can be an effective defense when used to negate the “intent” element of a theft offense. For example, if you have a few drinks at the bar and grab the wrong person’s coat on the way out the door, you may be able to argue that, while you took something that didn’t belong to you, it was not your intent to do so.

Misidentification can also be a defense to felony theft, provided that the allegedly stolen objects were not found on you or you have a reasonable explanation for why you had them. There are also some more procedural defenses, such as strategically objecting to certain testimony to prevent the prosecution from establishing ownership of the allegedly stolen items. An experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney can discuss all possible defenses with you to determine which fits your case the best.

Are You Facing Felony Theft Charges in Phoenix?

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a theft crime, the Law Office of James E. Novak is here to help. Our clients frequently call upon us to defend them in all types of serious felony cases. We take a comprehensive approach to every case we handle, ensuring that you receive the defense you need, deserve and are entitled to. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.