Maryland Theft Laws: Everything You Need to Know If You’re Facing Charges
Maryland theft laws establish the charges and sentencing guidelines for a variety of misdemeanor and felony crimes. Get the facts here.
Maryland Theft Laws: Stolen Property or Services
Theft, otherwise known as larceny, is one of the oldest crimes in the world. It can be defined as depriving another person of goods or services without their consent.
Section 7-104 of the Maryland Code is what defines everything about theft including the statutes, penalties, and remedies for theft.
Theft can involve anything as simple as petty theft that usually encompasses shoplifting to misdemeanors and crimes such as embezzlement, larceny, receiving stolen goods, and larceny after trust.
It is important to note that theft is not only about the stolen property but also includes taking services without the consent of the owner. This may include:
- Using money held for someone else for your own purposes or benefit.
- Taking something from the store and not paying for it (shoplifting).
- Buying personal items using credit cards, money, or funds of an employer.
- Not submitting to the employer money paid by a customer for a service or product.
- Possession of stolen goods.
- Retaining possession of a car when the first check did not clear.
- Finding or using property that was mislaid or lost by another.
- Receiving goods and using them when they were erroneously delivered to you.
You should always contact a defense lawyer with a good understanding of the State of Maryland theft law who will help you navigate the legal system and, if possible, get you more lenient penalties if you are charged with theft.
Theft Laws Maryland: Misdemeanor or Felony?
Whether or not theft is classified as a misdemeanor offense or a felony depends on the value of the stolen item. To prove felony theft, the state has to prove that you took the goods or services of another person worth more than $1,500 with the intent of permanently depriving them of their property without their consent.
Note that Maryland laws can commute misdemeanors to felonies under certain circumstances which is why it is important to contact a Maryland theft attorney when theft charges are levied against you.
How Penalties Are Determined According to Value of the Property Involved
Theft laws in Maryland apply penalties based on the value of the service or property that was stolen. If the value of the property taken is less than $1,500, then it is a misdemeanor theft. Any theft of property with a value greater than $1,500 is deemed felony theft or grand larceny.
The graduated scale of penalties for theft in Maryland looks like this:
- Less than $100 – A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $500 or 90 days in jail or both.
- More than $100 but no more than $1,500 – A misdemeanor theft with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or 6 months in jail or both.
- More than $1,500 but no more than $10,000 – A felony theft with a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine or up to 5 years in prison or both.
- More than $25,000 but no more than $100,000 – A felony theft with a maximum penalty of a $15,000 fine or 10 years in prison or both.
- No less than $100,000 or greater – A $25,000 fine or 20 years in prison or both.
In addition to fines and possible jail sentences, individuals convicted of felony theft also have to restore the stolen property to the owner or pay the owner the value of the property or services.
Escalating Misdemeanor Charges
In Maryland, you could also be charged under the theft scheme which means that the penalty can be applied on a continuing course of conduct.
For instance, if someone has been repeatedly engaged in the theft of the property or services over weeks or months, they could be charged under the code of continuing course of conduct.
Even if the different thefts had small values that could be classified as misdemeanor theft, they can be aggregated and the total value deemed a grand theft felony.
For instance, a person will not be charged with felony theft for stealing property or services worth $500 one time. However, if they stole several items worth $500 over several months or weeks, criminal charges of felony theft under the theft scheme could be brought against them.
Since these situations can be dicey, getting a defense lawyer to work on your criminal defense can help you avoid the classification of your Maryland theft crime as a felony and the maximum penalty that comes with it.
State of Maryland Theft Statute
The general theft provisions of Maryland are found in Criminal Law Title 7 of the 2018 Maryland Code. The statutes govern and define laws about theft in the State of Maryland.
According to the State of Maryland theft statute, you can be found guilty of theft if you:
- Have unauthorized control over property – It is a crime to knowingly or willfully exert or obtain unauthorized control of property without the consent of the owner.
- Have unauthorized control over property using deception – It is a criminal offense that could get you charged with theft to knowingly or willfully obtain property through deception.
- Are in possession of stolen property – You should not be in possession of stolen property if they know or believe that it has been stolen. Having such goods in your possession makes you complicit even if you did not engage in stealing the property.
- Take possession of property mislaid, lost, or delivered by mistake – Obtaining and keeping property after learning of the identity of the owner, failing to take reasonable measures to find the owner, and in doing so depriving the owner of the benefit or use of his property is theft.
- Have taken services that can only be availed for consideration or compensation via deception – You may not obtain the services of another by deception without the intention of compensation fully understanding that those services are provided for compensation.
In the case of unauthorized control over property or possession of stolen property, you will be deemed guilty of theft if you:
- Intend to deprive the owner of possession of his property.
- Knowingly or willfully conceal, use or abandon the property and in doing so deprive the owner of the benefit or use of his property.
- Abandon, conceal, and use the property knowing full well that those actions will probably deprive the owner of ownership of his property.
Civil Liability for Theft in the Case of Merchants
In some cases, for example, in the case of shoplifting, the individual committing the act may be civilly liable to the store owner. If you are found with civil liability for theft, you must:
- Restore the merchandise to the owner or, if that is not possible given that it has lost part of its value or been damaged, pay the merchant a value that is equal to what they had stated as the sales price for their goods.
- Pay the merchant for actual damages incurred aside from the loss of wages or time suffered due to the apprehension or prosecution of the employee or shoplifter.
- Pay a civil penalty to the merchant that is usually double the stated sales price but no more than $1,000 and no less than $50.
If you are facing theft charges and need legal help, contact us today for a free consultation. Criminal defense attorney Morgan E. Leigh has a strong understanding of Maryland State laws and is ready to work on your criminal defense.
Does Theft Have a Statute of Limitations?
It is critical to note that theft crimes in Maryland have to be prosecuted in a given amount of time. As such, if you are charged with theft of goods or services valued between $100 and $1,500, the prosecuting attorney must bring criminal charges within two years of the commission of most theft crimes.
This is very different from other misdemeanors where Maryland law asserts that charges have to be brought within a year from when the crime was committed.
If you are facing theft charges in Maryland, it is always advisable to contact a defense lawyer who can advise you on the status of your case with regard to the statute of limitations and also prepare a criminal defense if you need one.
Theft Maryland: What Should You Expect If You Are Convicted?
Second and subsequent theft offenses typically attract severe penalties if you are convicted. Aside from the risk of prison, probation, and having to pay hefty fines, there are other consequences if you are found guilty.
As a crime of moral turpitude, being found guilty may cause complications in employment and getting a home or apartment to rent since many employers and landlords treat a convicted person with suspicion.
If you have been charged with Maryland state’s felony theft you must get a skilled theft lawyer to take a look at your case. It is critical for an attorney to analyze the evidence brought in the criminal case against you so that you can understand the severity of the charges and the probability of a guilty verdict. By consulting an experienced criminal law attorney, you will be in the best position to get the best outcome as your case moves forward in the criminal justice system.