It may seem as if stealing something is the same no matter where you are. However, the truth is that although definitions, laws and consequences may be similar from state to state, each state has its own theft statutes. Alabama’s Criminal Code 13A-8 provides the information relating to theft in the state.
The definition of theft of property
To steal something, a person must act knowingly. By this definition, you cannot accidentally commit a theft offense. A person also has to have the intent of depriving someone of the property in question.
“Deprive” is not necessarily the same as “take.” For example, you could withhold something or have someone else keep it just long enough for the object to lose its usefulness, such as taking a student’s textbook for the length of the semester that he or she is in the class and giving it to another student to use. In that case, giving it back after the class ends would not be helpful to the owner. Alternately, you could throw the item away, hold it for ransom or permanently give it to someone other than the owner.
An owner does not have to be an individual. It is illegal to take an item that someone donated to a charity, even if it is outside the building, as long as it is on the property or within 30 feet of the charity’s donation box or trailer. It is also theft to obtain or take control of stolen property that is in the custody of law enforcement.
The consequences of theft of property
The value or type of the object stolen makes all the difference when considering the consequences of a theft conviction:
- First degree: Property worth more than $2,500 or a motor vehicle, or a scheme that involves selling or transferring property worth $1,000 or more over the course of no more than 180 days to an individual or business that buys it knowing it is stolen property
- Second degree: Property worth $1,500 to $2,500, any controlled substance or any livestock
- Third degree: Property worth $501 to $1,499 or any credit or debit card
- Fourth degree: Property worth up to $500 not taken directly from a person
First- through third-degree theft convictions are felonies, and a person may spend a minimum of one year in prison for any of them. As you may have deduced, the higher the value of the property, the longer the prison term and fines will be. Theft in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor, and the penalty may be up to one year of confinement, but not more.