Theft Charges

Tempe Lawyers for Defenses to Theft Charges

Tempe prosecutors take charges involving the theft of goods or services seriously. Those convicted of theft could spend years in prison. The stigma of the conviction can haunt you far into the future, not only socially, but also in terms of your ability to secure housing or a job or a professional license. If you are concerned about defeating charges of theft, it is important to call the experienced Tempe theft defense attorney James E. Novak. Mr. Novak is a former prosecutor who now brings his insights into how prosecutors think to building strong defenses for clients accused of theft and other crimes.


Theft is criminalized under A.R.S. section 13-1802. Under this statute, people can be convicted of theft when a prosecutor can show beyond a reasonable doubt they knowingly used or appropriated someone else’s property when they did not have the legal authority to do so. You could be charged with theft in a variety of ways. For instance, you could be charged if you control someone else’s property intending to deprive the other of it. You could also be charged if you controlled somebody else’s property though you knew or had reason to know what you controlled was stolen property.

When charged with theft, you could face felony charges. The value of the property or services that are alleged to have been stolen will determine the class of felony. The prosecutor will need to establish the value of the property or services. There are different classes of theft based on what can be proven about its value. For instance, when the property you stole is at least $25,000, you could face class 2 felony charges. When the property or services you took amount to $4000 - $25,000, you could face class 3 felony charges. When the property or services are worth $3000 - $4000, you could be charged with a class 4 felony. A class 5 felony would be charged when property or services are $2000 - $3000. A class 6 felony would be charged when the property or services are worth $1000 - $2000. When what is in question is property or services that are valued at less than $1000, you could face a class 1 misdemeanor conviction, which could result in a maximum of 6 months in jail.

Defenses to Theft Charges

A conviction is not inevitable. There are various legal defenses our lawyers may be able to successfully raise. Like other crimes, theft must be established beyond a reasonable doubt; this means each element needs to be airtight. We may be able to establish a defense if we can raise reasonable doubt about one or more elements. For instance, perhaps you didn’t have the requisite knowledge that you were taking something that belonged to someone else and we can make this showing. Or perhaps we can demonstrate you didn’t take anything with knowledge that your act constituted stealing. For example, if you grabbed a chair that was on the sidewalk because you believed it had been abandoned, we might be able to show you didn’t knowingly take something belonging to somebody else.

There are also more substantive defenses we could establish. There would be a complete defense if our lawyers could show you were the true owner of the services or property. For example, if your housemate and you own similar ballgowns and she says you stole hers, we could establish a defense by showing you were the true owner of the ballgown.

Sometimes property or services are not worth less than claimed by the victim, the police, or the prosecutor. We will consider whether it is appropriate to show that the property or services have been improperly valued. It could be a strong defense, for example, if you’ve been charged with a class 3 felony for taking goods purportedly worth $8,000, to show that the goods are actually worth $2900 because that would drop the charge to a class 4 felony and significantly reduce prison time; in that situation, the prosecutor may be amenable to a plea deal.

Retain an Experienced Theft Defense Attorney

If you are concerned about theft charge defenses, you should discuss your situation with Tempe lawyer James E. Novak. He develops the strongest available strategies for those accused of theft in Phoenix, as well as Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

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