Theft charges cover a variety of circumstances, from petty shoplifting to complicated schemes to defraud others. Maryland categorizes theft charges into ranges based upon the value of the items that were alleged to have been stolen. Some examples include:
- Theft under $100.00 is a typical shoplifting charge, which is a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in prison and/or a $500.00 fine. Often you will be sent to a preliminary inquiry hearing where the court will determine if you are eligible for a diversionary program, typically called “drug court.” If you qualify for this program, you may avoid a conviction if you successfully complete the program.
- Theft under $1,000.00 is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of 18 months and/or a $500.00 fine. If you have two or more convictions for theft under $1,000.00, the maximum penalty increases to 5 years and/or a $5,000.00 fine.
- Theft from $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 is a felony that is heard in the District Court that has a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $10,000.00 fine.
- Theft from $10,000.00 to $100,000.00 is a felony that is heard in the District Court that has a maximum penalty of 15 years and/or a $15,000.00 fine.
- Theft of $100,000.00 or more is a felony that is heard in the District Court that has a maximum penalty of 25 years and/or a $25,000.00 fine.
There can be many legal issues in theft cases, such as whether you were authorized to use or have control over the property, as well as who actually owns the property. If you are charged with a scheme or conspiracy, your intent and your actual connection to the other individuals involved in the scheme or conspiracy can determine your culpability.
If you are being investigated for theft, you should consult with an attorney before making any statements. There are many instances with shoplifting cases or embezzlement situations at work where a loss prevention officer or employer may try to convince you to sign a confession. They may imply, or even tell you, that no criminal charges will be brought if you confess or agree to repayment terms. Do not believe them. An attorney can be helpful in negotiating repayment terms without an admission of guilt, but only the State can decide whether or not charges will be filed against an individual. Needless to say, if you are formally charged with theft, you should assert your right to remain silent and obtain the services of an attorney before deciding what, if any, statement should be made about the incident.