Theft can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. The value of the item(s) taken determine the seriousness of the crime. Many jurisdictions use an amount of $500.00. Items valued at under $500.00 are prosecuted as petty theft. Items in excess of $500.00 are prosecuted as grand theft. Theft is defined as taking the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession. Petty theft in a commercial establishment is commonly called shoplifting.
Defenses To Theft
A common defense to theft is mistake. If a person browsing the aisles of a store places an item in his pocket instead of his cart, then buys all the items in his cart but does not pay for the item in his pocket, he did not commit a theft of the item in his pocket if he can prove he forgot about the item and “mistakenly” left the store without paying.
Another defense is the lack of intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession. If a person takes his neighbor’s lawnmower without permission, he did not commit a theft if he can prove he only intended to borrow the item to mow his lawn and intended to return it.