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When we hear the word "theft" chances are we are all on the same page as to what we are talking about. Theft, or stealing, is universally understood to be taking something that doesn't belong to you. There are different ways of taking control of somebody else's property though, and accordingly there are several different laws in the State of Maine defining what a theft is and how it may be committed. 

The Maine Criminal Code (Title 17-A) Chapter 15 is dedicated to defining the many different ways that theft can be committed  under Maine law. In this article, however, I will be focusing on the basic offenses:

  • Theft by Unauthorized Taking or Transfer;
  • Theft by Deception; and
  • Theft of Services.

Theft by Unauthorized Taking or Transfer

Theft by Unauthorized Taking is the original Coca-Cola of theft. It is the act in its most basic form: taking something that doesn't belong to you that you do not intend to give back. 

The statute, 17-A section 353, defines theft by unauthorized taking as when a person "obtains or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another with the intent to deprive the other person of that property."

The key point there is the bit about the "intent to deprive." As an example, let's say you are at the grocery store in the checkout line and as you are loading your items on the conveyor belt you forget the small bottle of gatorade sitting on the bottom rack of your cart. You then proceed out of the store without having paid for that item and proceed on your merry way. Did you just steal the gatorade? No, of course not. While you may have obtained unauthorized control over an item (because you didn't pay for it, after all) you lacked the intent to deprive the owner of that item because it was a mistake. 

Generally speaking, theft charges require an element of mens rea or "guilty mind," in order to get a conviction. This is why most stores hire loss prevention officers to observe suspected shoplifters and have them write reports to describe what they saw.

Theft by Deception

As you can probably put together by reading the name of this one, theft by deception is more or less the act of lying to somebody to give them something that is not yours. It is, at its heart, the act of being a con-man.

Theft by Deception is defined in section 354 as when a person "obtains or exercises control over the property of another as a result of deception and with intent to deprive the other person of the property."

I'm guessing you see the pattern already right?

Theft of Services

Theft of Services. The classic dine and dash is probably the single most common way that this one gets committed, though there as many possibilities as there are services that people provide for compensation.

Theft of services is defined in section 357 as when a person "obtains services by deception, threat, force or any other means designed to avoid the due payment for the services that the person knows are available only for compensation" OR when a person "having control over the services of another, to which the person knows the person is not entitled, the person diverts such services to the person's own benefit or to the benefit of some other person who the person knows is not entitled to the services."

To be clear, no being delinquent on a bill after having received services prior to payment does not make a person guilty of theft of services. Like all other forms of theft described above, the intent of the accused person is an essential element to the crime. 

Misdemeanor to Felony

All of the crimes described above at their base level are considered misdemeanors, meaning primarily that a person convicted of one of these crimes cannot be sentenced to more than 364 days of incarceration. Specifically, if the value of goods or services stolen is less than or equal to $500, then it is a Class E crime, which is punishable with up to 6 months of incarceration.

It is possible, however, for any single instance of these crimes to become a greater class of crime, meaning a felony, depending on the value of the goods or services stolen.

For each of the crimes above, if the value of goods or services stolen is more than $500 but not more than $1,000 then the charge is elevated to a class D crime, which is punishable up to 364 days of incarceration.  

If the value of goods or services is more than $1,000 but not more than $10,000 then then the charge is elevated to a Class C crime. A Class C crime in Maine is considered a felony and is punishable with up to 5 years of incarceration.

If the value of goods or services is more than $10,000 then it is a Class B crime, which is punishable with up to 10 years of incarceration.

It is also a Class B crime if a person used a dangerous weapon in the course of the theft, or if the person stole a firearm.

Three Strikes

What many people do not realize about theft charges is that if a person has already been convicted twice of any combination of any theft charge, burglary or burglary of a motor vehicle aimed at committing a theft inside the relevant structure or motor vehicle, robbery, forgery or aggravated forgery, and/or negotiating a worthless instrument, then a new charge of theft is automatically a Class C crime.

What that means? Even if you are charged with stealing a $1 pair of sunglasses from Marden's, if you have two of those conviction on you record already you can be charged with a felony. For $1 Marden's sunglasses.

Give us a Call

Even if it is your first offense, do not try to fight the State by yourself. Give us a call to fight back and protect your future.

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