Des Moines Theft Lawyer
Theft charges can arise for a wide range of reasons, all of which are enunciated in Section 714 of the Iowa criminal code. The reasons can result in anything from a low-level misdemeanor to a felony charge. What all of these charges have in common is that they can put a defendant behind bars, and seriously impact their future. It’s important to bring in a Des Moines theft lawyer who believes in their clients, in their right to due process, and fights for their best interests.
Conviction on theft charges can have serious consequences that may hinder one’s ability to find employment, housing, or education. To say nothing of possible fines and jail time.
The Definition of Theft in Iowa
The strict legal definition of theft in the state of Iowa is “taking possession or control of the property of another or property in the possession of another, with intent to deprive.” Or, in layman’s terms, the defendant took something that didn’t belong to them.
From a legal perspective, it’s important to distinguish theft from two crimes that are commonly associated with it, those of burglary and robbery. A burglary charge focuses on the unlawful entering of property with the intent to commit a crime. Robbery means any theft that took place was done with force or the threat of force.
What all of this means is that, depending on the circumstances, theft could be just the beginning of charges the prosecution intends to bring.
Five Degrees of Theft
Iowa law classifies theft five different ways, with the focus being on the value of what’s alleged to have been stolen…
5th Degree Theft: The lowest-level offense, this involves property worth no more than $300. Possible sentences for conviction could be a fine of as high as $855 (+$128.25 surcharge) and perhaps thirty days in jail.
4th Degree Theft: Convictions for taking property valued between $300 and $750 can result in one year of jail time and fines amounting to $2,560 (+$384 surcharge).
3rd Degree Theft: We are now at the level where a person’s previous record can have an impact. Those who have two prior theft convictions on their record can be charged with theft in the 3rd degree even if the ordinary value of the property would suggest a 4th or 5th degree charge. Otherwise, 3rd degree theft is property worth $750 to $1,000 and conviction means a defendant might need to serve two years in prison and the fine could reach over $8,540 (+$1,281 surcharge).
2nd Degree Theft: All of the previous degrees of theft have been misdemeanors. At 2nd degree, we are in felony territory. The property must be worth between $1,500 and $10,000, or it can be a car theft of any value. A judge can order five years of prison time in the event of a conviction and levy a fine of $10,245 (+$1,536.75 surcharge).
1st Degree Theft: At the top of the ladder are charges where the alleged property stolen is more valuable than $10,000 or involves stealing from a building that was destroyed by a natural disaster or a riot. If convicted, the defendant is looking at a possible 10-year prison stretch, a fine of $13,660 (+$2,049 surcharge), and an order to pay restitution to the victim.
Possible Defenses Against Theft
It’s important to know that theft under Iowa law can come about by misunderstandings. It doesn’t have to be a deliberate attempt to take property. The failure to return property one rented or was loaned, could result in theft charges. The person who rents a snowblower and doesn’t return it, could face theft charges. The person who borrowed their neighbor’s tools and didn’t return them, could face theft charges. But perhaps the defendant in question simply forgot they had the tools, or meant to return the snowblower, and never got around to it.
In cases like these, simply returning the property can go a long way. Strictly speaking, the District Attorney is not obligated to drop charges if property is returned, but this act of good will may help move the process in that direction.
In other cases, there’s also the basic principle of presumed innocence that is at the core of the American criminal justice system. All defendants have the right to be presumed innocent. All prosecutors must not only prove guilt, but they must also do so beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s not an easy standard meet and a good Des Moines theft lawyer, one who really believes in their client and is ready to explore alternative scenarios for the missing property, can help the jury see that other explanations are possible.
At Nicholas Lombardi Law Firm, we’re here to fight for defendants, not judge them. Our job is to vigorously defend your freedom, your record, and your reputation. It’s our responsibility to be there for you or your loved one and be accessible.
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