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Avoiding Theft Charges in NC

If you’re facing theft charges in North Carolina, you may have many questions about what happens next. What kinds of penalties are you looking at? How can you best defend yourself in court? If you’ve faced charges more than once, will the courts hold that against you? What makes theft a felony charge? Let’s look at answers to common questions about theft charges in NC.

Theft Laws in NC

According to NC Law, you only face misdemeanor charges if the amount you steal is worth less than $1000. However, there are times where even stealing $1000 worth of merchandise can give you a felony charge. A misdemeanor costs your reputation and job prospects, but not your right to vote or own a firearm. However, a felony theft conviction could mean you lose your ability to: 

  • Vote (only for a limited time while serving your sentence) 
  • Own firearms
  • Buy a home
  • Get a job 
  • Your freedom, i.e., you could go to jail or prison and/or be under probation supervision

Felony Theft

Theft charges depend on many factors. It matters who you steal from, what you steal, how much the goods are worth, and how and who you steal with. Factors that may affect penalties for theft include:  

  • How much you are stealing: Is it worth more than a specified amount?
  • What you are stealing: Gas and firearm thefts are always a felony.
  • How you steal it: Did you break and enter?
  • Who did you steal from: from your employer? Did you accept a stolen gift knowing it was stolen?

If you steal property that is worth more than $1000, you’ve committed a Class H felony and may face 4- 25 months of prison time in addition to fees and fines. 

However, if you only steal $900 worth of merchandise, it’s more likely you will face a Class 1 misdemeanor theft charge. A Class 1 misdemeanor theft charge may come with a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a fine.

If you accept a gift of stolen property, you can also face the same penalties as the thief if you knew the merchandise was stolen, or even if you should have known. 

Some items are automatically considered felony-level theft. It is always a felony to steal any of these items:

  • Motor fuel (Class F felony with a prison sentence of 4-25 months)
  • Explosive devices or firearms (Class H felony with a prison sentence of 10-41 months)
  • A record in the custody of North Carolina State Archives
  • Vehicle part (if the cost of vehicle repair is $1,000 or more is Class I felony)
  • Conspiring to commit theft of retail property worth more than $1,500 over a 90-day period, with the intent to sell through a retail property fence or another person

Employee Theft  

Stealing from your employer is a felony, often called embezzlement, even if the amount you steal is less than $100,000. If you raid the supply area at your office and resell the items online, but get caught, your employer may call law enforcement. In that case, you could face a Class H felony charge with 10-41 months in prison. 

Suppose you work at a jewelry store in the mall and slip a particularly costly diamond necklace into your bag. However, a friend saw you and reported your actions to the police. If the necklace was worth more than $100,000, you could face Class C felony charges with 44-182 months in prison. 

Stealing From a Person

Stealing less than $1000 worth of merchandise from a retail store during their open hours is misdemeanor theft. You may be charged with misdemeanor larceny or shoplifting depending on the circumstances. However, stealing from a person is no longer a misdemeanor. 

If you sit next to someone in a college class who has the new iPhone, and steal it off their desk when they’re not looking, you’ve committed felony theft. Stealing from another person is always a Class H felony. Even if you only steal a backpack with useless junk, getting caught for stealing from a person, regardless of the item’s value, can be a serious crime if you’re charged.

If you choose to break into a store or home to steal items, you commit more than just theft. In this case, even if you only steal a cheap pair of earrings, you still face felony charges. Because of the breaking and entering, you’re looking at a Class H felony charge. 

Protect Your Rights

If you are facing theft charges in North Carolina, you need expert legal advice about your next steps. At Scharff Law, we investigate every aspect of your case looking for any rights violations, negotiating with prosecutors for reduced or dismissed charges, and discussing your case thoroughly with you to cover all your bases. We have over a decade of experience working in criminal law cases and prior experience as a prosecutor. If you want answers and need a defense that brings them, let us work with you to create your best defense and get the outcome you deserve. Contact us today and find out how we can help.