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Theft comes in many different forms, but every specific form shares the same general characteristic: the thief acts with an underlying intent to take property from its rightful owner.
The State of Maine has a wide range of categories for the various types of theft which can occur. These types of theft differ in terms of severity, and consequently differ in terms of the possible punishments which can be imposed. The same kind of theft can also be more severe when the value of the underlying stolen property is greater.
When it comes to the severity of theft crimes in Maine, grand larceny is the most serious type of theft crime, and carries the highest possible punishments, as we will discuss.
In this post, we’re going to dive into the details of grand larceny, as well as the other theft offenses here in Maine.
We will look at some of the more unusual or uncommon forms of theft – such as insurance theft, or theft by deception – and also some of the more familiar forms, such as shoplifting (or basic larceny). Theft charges are not something to be taken lightly.
If you’ve been charged with any type of theft, you should procure a capable criminal defense lawyer right away. This is doubly true if the charge is grand larceny. Some theft offenses may carry relatively minor punishments, depending on the circumstances, but other offenses can carry very stiff penalties.
If you need assistance, or need additional information, contact The Maine Criminal Defense Group.
As mentioned, Maine law organizes different theft crimes by degree of severity. The most severe form of theft is grand larceny. A charge of grand larceny may be made when someone steals property valued at over $10,001 or higher, or if the stolen item is either a firearm or explosive device.
Because grand larceny is the most severe form of theft, this crime naturally carries the harshest possible punishments (see below). Grand larceny is defined wholly by the value or type of the stolen property.
Below the crime of grand larceny, there is simple or basic larceny. As with grand larceny, basic larceny is defined by the value of the property involved, and in Maine law this means anything $10,000 or less.
Readers should be aware, however, that basic larceny is still broken down into different levels based on severity. Larceny involving property valued between $1,001 to $10,000 qualifies as a Class C crime, and anything between $500 to $1,000 qualifies as a Class D crime.
If the theft involves property valued at less than $500, then the crime qualifies as a Class E crime. Classic larceny is the type of crime which everyone is familiar with: shoplifting, car theft, jewelry theft – these are all examples of basic larceny.
The underlying concept is that the perpetrator willfully took property which he or she knew belonged to someone else.
Importantly, the manner in which the theft occurs can exacerbate the severity of the offense. If the perpetrator wields a gun, or brandishes a knife, then the crime can be bumped up to a Class B crime.
In addition to classifying theft crimes by severity, Maine also organizes theft crimes according to how exactly the crime unfolded. Maine classifies “theft by deception” as an act which is intended to deceive someone via false impression or representation for the purpose of extracting property.
A good example of this type of crime would be “phishing,” whereby a thief attempts to extract property from someone by falsely portraying himself or herself as a legitimate company or entity.
When it comes to severity, this crime can range from the lowest to the highest, depending on value of the item or items stolen.
This one should be familiar to most people. In Maine, “insurance theft” is defined as any of the following acts:
Maine law classifies “extortion” as either of the following acts:
In this latter form, extortion is essentially interchangeable with the commonplace definition of “blackmail,” whereby a person threatens to do something simply in order to compel another person to do a specific thing.
In this context, however, the threat is used specifically to extract property, and so it is a theft crime. Extortion is classified as a Class C crime.
This is a type of theft which we’ve seen more and more frequently following the advent of online banking. Maine law defines theft by “mistaken delivery” as a situation in which someone receives property, and that person knows that the property was mistakenly delivered to them, and then subsequently fails to make reasonable efforts to return the property.
Consider a common example: a person suddenly receives a large deposit into their bank account via online transfer. The deposit was a mistake by a bank clerk. The recipient begins spending the mistakenly delivered funds immediately without first attempting to correct the mistake.
This offense can also run the full spectrum in terms of severity.
Theft of services occurs when someone avoids or refuses payment for services which were rendered because of a voluntary agreement. A good example of this type of theft would be the following: a person requests a haircut from a barber and assures the barber about his or her ability to pay.
Then, after the service is rendered, the recipient avoids payment. This type of crime can be anything from a Class E offense to a Class B offense, depending on the magnitude.
Technically, this offense isn’t actually theft, but it is still a punishable offense in the State of Maine.
When someone receives stolen property, and then fails to take steps to return the property to its rightful owner, and either retains or disposes of the property, this person commits a punishable offense.
As with other theft related crimes, this offense varies in severity according to the underlying value.
Unauthorized use of property is another variation of theft. This type of offense is quite familiar: when a person willfully takes possession of another person’s property, this will count as unauthorized use.
This is common with vehicles (such as boats, motorcycles, cars, etc.) and other types of property, such as unreturned library books.
Defenses to charges of theft can vary widely in their specific approach, but all approaches tend to share a common feature: the defense basically argues that the accused perpetrator actually had a legitimate right to possess the property in question.
At its core, theft is basically the unapproved taking of another person’s property, and so the taker doesn’t have the legal right to possess the property. Legal rights to possession can be created, however, and so any argument which attempts to assert that such rights existed essentially constitutes a potentially viable defense to theft.
Consider an example: a person claims that someone stole his or her bike, but upon closer inspection, the bike was actually purchased by the alleged perpetrator. The claimant states that the perpetrator failed to pay an adequate amount, but the sale was made via a verbal contract wherein the buyer (and alleged perpetrator) paid a “reasonable amount” for the bike.
Just because the claimant believes that the deal was inadequate doesn’t mean that theft occurred. In this case, the alleged perpetrator had a legitimate right to the property.
Legal rights to property can be created in other ways, as well, such as a lease, rental agreement, consignment arrangement, temporary exchange of property, and so forth. Any invocation of one of these rights is a defense to a theft charge.
Another type of defense stems from the manner in which allegedly stolen property is obtained. For instance, if police search a person’s vehicle and find stolen goods, but the search itself was unconstitutional, then the evidence may be excluded in court. This type of defense doesn’t affirmatively assert a legal right to the property, but simply suppresses the underlying search which uncovered the property.
The possible punishments a person convicted of theft can face vary depending on the severity of the offense.
As we’ve referenced, the offenses range in severity from a low of Class E to a high of Class B.
For Class E offenses, the possible punishments include a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a maximum financial penalty of $1,000. For Class D offenses, the corresponding punishments are up to 1 year in prison and up to $2,000 in penalty fines.
For Class C offenses (remember this is for property valued at $1,000 to $10,000), the possible punishments include a maximum of 5 years in prison and a maximum penalty of $5,000. For Class B crimes, for property valued at over $10,000, the corresponding maximum punishments are up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
Keep in mind, these possible punishments presume that the offense is a first offense. Second offenses can carry stiffer penalties even for the same crime.
As you can see, theft does indeed take a large variety of forms. But the various manifestations of theft all share a common thread. Simply put, whenever someone knowingly deprives another person of property, this will be classified as theft in one form or another. And if the form is novel, and Maine doesn’t have a current category or name for the theft, then Maine will simply invent a new category.
This is precisely what has happened in recent years with new forms of deception and thievery, such as the case with online banking mistakes, IRS refund check scams, and so forth. The core feature is always the same, and so Maine will always punish this type of behavior.
As mentioned, receiving a theft charge is no laughing matter. As we have seen here, a theft conviction can lead to serious consequences, particularly if the conviction is for a repeat offense.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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