Theft can be either a misdemeanor or a felony crime in Maryland. The classification depends on the value of the property or services that are taken. Misdemeanor theft becomes grand larceny theft in Maryland when a specific dollar value of stolen goods is exceeded.
The term grand larceny theft is no longer used in Maryland. Historically, it meant theft that was charged as a felony as opposed to petty larceny which was a misdemeanor. Theft offenses were codified in a new law enacted in 2017 that changed some of the classifications and sentences. The crimes include newspaper theft, unlawful use of goods, crimes involving electronics, bad checks, and motor vehicle theft.
Every year, thousands of people are jailed for theft offenses in Maryland even though these are property crimes that do not involve violence. A lot of defendants aren’t aware they can face many years behind bars for this crime. Make sure to talk to a Baltimore theft defense attorney as soon as possible if the police charge you with any theft offense.
The Definition of Theft in Maryland
In Maryland, theft is defined as depriving a person of property or services without their consent. Theft includes larceny, embezzlement, larceny by trick, shoplifting and obtaining property by deception. The defendant must be aware he or she did not own the property and had no permission to take it.
How a Misdemeanor Theft Becomes a Grand Larceny Theft in Maryland
Theft can be elevated to a felony if the value of the property or services stolen exceeds $1,500. We sometimes see cases in which the value of the property is in dispute. Prosecutors may seek to elevate its value to make the offense a felony. A vigilant defense lawyer will look out for this practice. Maryland changed its felony laws in recent years to give prosecutors less leeway. They must prove the item or services taken exceeded a certain value.
The penalty for misdemeanor theft in Maryland is considerably less than a felony offense. We will do everything in our power to fight felony charges where possible.
When Misdemeanor Charges Become a Felony in a Theft Scheme
The state can also charge a defendant with a felony under a theft scheme. The enhanced option is available to prosecutors when the accused has stolen small amounts of property or services over a period of time. It’s often used when the defendant stands accused of taking property from the same individual or business over weeks or months. Prosecutors can consider the action as a continuing course of conduct and bring felony charges. The state can aggravate the crimes and the dollar value rather than treating them as single instances of misdemeanor theft.
Misdemeanor Theft Penalties vs. Grand Larceny Penalties
If a defendant is convicted of theft of services or property worth at least $1,500 but less than $10,000, he or she faces a term of up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 under Section 7-104(g)(1). Before a reworking of Maryland’s theft laws in 2017 into a compressive statute, people who stole goods or services worth over $1,000 would be charged with a felony.
Conviction for the theft of goods or services with a value of at least $100 but under $1,500 carries a misdemeanor charge with a potential prison term of up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to $500.
The sentences are for first offenses. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor offense is stark. You will have to restore the property taken to the owner or pay the value of the property or services back whether you are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor.
You will face higher potential sentences for stealing more expensive items or services. Stealing property or services valued at $25,000 to $100,000 carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a fine not exceeding $15,000, or both. The felony of stealing property or services valued at $100,000 or over carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine up to $25,000 or both.
What Happens When a Defendant Has Previous Theft Offenses on Their Criminal Record?
Repeat offenders face longer potential prison terms. For instance, a thief on a second or a subsequent misdemeanor conviction for stealing property or services valued at over $100 but under $1,500 faces a maximum possible prison term of a year a fine not exceeding $500 or both as well as having to make restitution to the victim.
A person who has four or more previous convictions under the Maryland theft law who is convicted of stealing property or services with a value of less than $1,500 is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be imprisoned for up to five years, face a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Defenses to Misdemeanor Theft and Grand Larceny Theft in Maryland
It is a defense to misdemeanor theft and grand larceny theft in Maryland if the accused acted under a good faith claim to the property under Section 7-110(c)(1). The accused also has a defense if the defendant acted in the honest belief he or she had the right to obtain or exert control over the property.
It’s also usually a defense if you take property belonging to your spouse unless you are no longer living together as husband and wife and inhabited difference places at the time of the alleged theft. In the case of the stealing of a trade secret, it’s a defense if the accused “rightfully knew the trade secret, or the trade secret was available to the defendant from a source other than the owner.”
The law sets out some defenses to theft crimes like misdemeanor theft, grand larceny theft, embezzlement, and shoplifting that will not be effective. Arguing you stole services or property that was stolen or obtained by another illegal means is not a defense to a theft crime. It’s not a defense to the crime of theft of property or services less than $100 that the property was worth more than $100.
Hire a Maryland Theft Defense Lawyer for Misdemeanor or Grand Larceny Charges
Theft is a complicated and often misunderstood crime. However, it can land you in prison for a long term, particularly for a felony theft offense of a high-value item. Make sure to hire an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer as early as possible. Every defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney during his or her trial. You should not pass up this right. We have defended thousands of clients in Baltimore and elsewhere. Attorney Randolph Rice has worked with the gang unit in the State’s Attorney’s Office and has decades of working knowledge in the Maryland courts. Please contact us today for a free consultation.