When you are facing a theft offense in Columbus, it is crucial you understand how prosecutors determined the specific charge against you. This includes whether the alleged crime is a misdemeanor or felony, and if it is a felony, the degree of the offense. The differences between second or first-degree felonies may not seem like much on paper. However, the real-life consequences can differ drastically. The higher the degree of the felony, the more likely you are to spend years in jail, submit to probation, and pay harsh fines.
After being arrested for theft, no matter the level of the offense, you should contact the Columbus theft attorneys of Luftman Heck & Associates at (614) 500-3836. We can help you fight a theft charge and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Petty Theft in Ohio
The main difference between petty theft and other degrees of theft is the value of the property or services you allegedly stole. If you are charged with taking property or services valued at less than $1,000, you will likely be charged with petty theft, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. However, there are exceptions to this rule. No matter how much the property is worth, you can be charged with a higher degree of theft if the property was a firearm or drugs, or if the rightful owner of the property was an elderly person, individual with a disability, or service member.
You may be charged with petty theft if:
- The value of what you supposedly stole is less than $1,000
- The item or owner is not within a protected class under the law
Upon being convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor, you could spend up to 180 days in jail and have to pay up to $1,000 in fines, which does not include your attorney’s fees or court costs. Some judges will want you to spend a few days or weeks in jail for theft. This is a common “tough on crime” stance.
By working with an experienced petty theft attorney, you are more likely to avoid jail time and even keep a conviction off your record. Your attorney may be able to negotiate probation or community service instead of jail time. If you do not have a criminal history, you may have the option to go through a first-offender program. By fulfilling all of the requirements of the program, you will not have any criminal record of the theft.
Ohio Theft Charges
When you hear about grand theft in Ohio, you may believe it is a label for any charges aside from petty theft. However, Ohio specifically labels the tiers of theft based on the value of the property stolen, the specific items were taken, and the rightful owner of the property. Between petty theft and grand theft, there is simply theft, which covers the unlawful taking of property or services valued between $1,000 and $7,000.
Theft is a fifth-degree felony – the lowest felony you can face in Ohio. Upon conviction of a fifth-degree felony, you can be imprisoned for six months to one year and fined up to $2,500. Unlike a misdemeanor charge of petty theft, you are unlikely to avoid doing any time in jail or prison. You will also have a much harder time being eligible for a first-offender program if you are initially charged with a felony. However, your punishment can depend greatly on having a theft lawyer by your side. An experienced attorney can negotiate a fair plea bargain on your behalf.
Grand Theft in Ohio
If you are facing grand theft charges, it is because the value of the items you allegedly stole is significant or you are accused of taking a protected item. Under Ohio law, grand theft includes the unlawful taking of:
- Property or services valued between $7,000 and $150,000
- Any firearm or dangerous ordinance
- Any motor vehicle
If your grand theft charge is based on the value of the property or due to stealing a car, you will face a fourth-degree felony, punishable by six to 18 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
When prosecutors charge you with grand theft due to stealing a firearm or dangerous ordinance, you will face a higher third-degree felony and there is a presumption that you should spend time in prison. A third-degree felony is punishable by one to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. However, if the property was taken from a federally licensed firearms dealer, then the grand theft will be charged as a first-degree felony. You can be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years and fined up to $20,000.
Contact Our Columbus Theft Attorneys for Help
Charges for stealing in Central Ohio are serious, and you should not face a trial without a criminal lawyer. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer by your side to help you avoid conviction. At Luftman Heck & Associates, we will build you the strongest defense possible under the law to prove your innocence or minimize the consequences of conviction.
Call us today at (614) 500-3836 to schedule a free consultation.