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A theft charge: The penalties you may face for theft convictions

Theft is a charge that ranges in severity depending on a number of factors. For example, if you steal a candy bar, you shouldn't face the same charges as someone who steals a car. Sentencing ranges from repaying what you owe to facing time in prison.

Normally, when the case involves only a low value of stolen property, you will face a petty theft charge. Usually, the value of these cases is no more than $1,000. In petty theft cases, it's typical to face a misdemeanor and potentially jail time for less than a year. Depending on the number of times you've been convicted of petty theft, you may face harsher penalties thanks to repeat offender laws.

For higher value cases, it's possible to face a felony charge. You may have to pay restitution (the funds that go to the victim) as well as fines. Certain types of thefts may have additional charges that could be pressed, which raise the penalties you face.

Remember that your past criminal history does play a role in current sentencing. If you have a clean record, you're more likely to receive leniency, whereas a repeat offender may face harsher penalties. The court will consider mitigating circumstances regardless of the number of offenses you've committed, which is why it's a good idea to defend yourself with your side of the story.

Your attorney can help you defend yourself by showing why you took something or why you're being falsely accused. With the right support for your argument, it's possible to have the charges lowered or dropped.

Source: FindLaw, "Theft Penalties and Sentencing," accessed July 11, 2017

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