Aggressive Defense Against Theft Charges In Iowa
Theft charges can arise for many reasons, all of which are covered in Section 714 of the Iowa criminal code. Types of theft can be anything from low-level misdemeanors to felonies. All these charges have in common that they can put a defendant behind bars and seriously impact their future. It’s essential to bring in our Des Moines theft lawyers at Lombardi & Miler Law Firm PLLC. They believe in our clients and their right to due process, and they fight 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.
Are you facing theft crime charges in Iowa? Call us today at 515-513-5324 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with our theft lawyers in Des Moines.
Defining 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 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 commonly associated crimes: 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 occurred with force or the threat of force.
This means that, depending on the circumstances, theft could be just the beginning of the charges the prosecution intends to bring.
Theft Classifications And Penalties
Iowa law classifies theft in five ways, focusing on the value of what’s alleged to have been stolen:
- Fifth-degree theft: The lowest-level offense involves property worth no more than $300. Possible sentences for conviction could be a fine of up to $855 (+$128.25 surcharge) and 30 days in jail.
- Fourth-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).
- Third-degree theft: This is the level at which a person’s previous record can have an impact. Those with two prior theft convictions on their record can be charged with theft in the third degree even if the common value of the property would suggest a fourth- or fifth-degree charge. Otherwise, third-degree theft is property worth $750 to $1,000, and a conviction means that a defendant might need to serve two years in prison and pay a fine of more than $8,540 (+$1,281 surcharge).
- Second-degree theft: All previous theft degrees have been misdemeanors. At the second degree, it’s 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).
- First-degree theft: This is the top of the ladder. The alleged property stolen is worth more than $10,000 or involves stealing from a building 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.
Is Stealing A Felony In Iowa?
In Iowa, whether theft is considered a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the property stolen and the circumstances surrounding the theft.
The exact charges can depend on other factors, like prior convictions, the nature of the item stolen and whether any aggravating factors were present.
Defenses Against Theft Charges
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 once rented or 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 forgot they had the tools or meant to return the snowblower and never got around to it. Simply returning the property can go a long way in cases like these. Strictly speaking, the district attorney is not obligated to drop charges if the property is returned. Still, this act of good will may help move the process in that direction.
In other cases, the basic principle of presumed innocence is at the core of the American criminal justice system. All defendants have the right to be presumed innocent. Not only must all prosecutors prove guilt, but they must also do so beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s not an easy standard to meet, and a good Des Moines theft lawyer who 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.
Contact Our Des Moines Theft Lawyers Today
At Lombardi & Miler Law Firm PLLC, our lawyers are here to fight for defendants, not judge them. Their job is to vigorously defend your freedom, record and reputation. It’s their responsibility to be there for you or your loved one and be accessible.