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How Big a Crime is Theft in Louisiana: All You Need to Know

Earlier this year, we heard about the multi-parish burglary case in New Orleans; then, a couple of months back there were a rash of mail thefts reported from outside post offices in Lake Charles that caused a problem worth thousands of dollars. The growing number of theft cases reported in the state makes it imperative for one to know what constitutes the crime of theft in Louisiana, and how it is charged here under law.


Theft, according to Louisiana laws, is when an individual takes another’s property (whether it is money or any other item), without the owner’s consent, and with the intention of depriving them of it permanently. There are several names for theft, including embezzlement, burglary, shoplifting, looting, larceny, or robbery.


The laws in this state categorize theft as either a misdemeanor or a felony, the latter of which is a crime with more severity and gravity, and therefore attracts harsher consequences. A felony carries a long punishment of incarceration. Depending on the dollar value of the property that was taken, a theft violation can be charged as a felony in Louisiana.


The more the value of property, the greater the severity of penalty


The value of property stolen determines whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony; the amount stolen or taken affects the ultimate sentence in a theft case.


Stealing or shoplifting a low-value property, one that costs less than $1,000, attracts a misdemeanor charge. It incurs a fine of one thousand dollars and imprisonment of up to 6 months.


When the amount taken amounts to a value of one thousand dollars or more, but less than a value of five thousand dollars, the offender shall be imprisoned for not more than five years, or may be fined not more than three thousand dollars, or both.


When the taking amounts to a value of five thousand dollars or more, but less than a value of twenty-five thousand dollars, the offender shall be imprisoned for not more than ten years, or may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or both.


And when the theft is of a value of twenty-five thousand dollars or more, the person shall be imprisoned for not more than twenty years, or may be fined not more than fifty thousand dollars, or both.


An example of theft would be when 19-year old Kyle Prejean of Rayne, Louisiana, was arrested last year after being caught stealing items worth more than $1,000 from Walmart. On the other hand, the case of 65-year-old Henry Phillips gives you an idea of what a petty crime looks like. Phillips, who was finally released in August 2021 after being wrongly imprisoned for more than a decade, had only committed a petty crime of robbing a man of $20. He was convicted in 2009 of purse-snatching after the district attorney alleged that he stole a man’s wallet from a McDonald's counter and then pretended to have a gun when he was confronted.


How do prior convictions affect theft charges?


In the aforementioned case of Henry Phillips, it was by invoking his 2 prior robbery convictions, that the prosecutors under the former New Orleans District Attorney gave him a mandatory life sentence without parole. While in this particular case, the severity of the sentence was completely unjustified, a prior conviction does count as an aggravating factor when it comes to theft charges.


While stealing something that costs less than $500 receives the lightest penalty of a typical 0-6 months jail term, the offender might attract an imprisonment of up to 2 years instead, if they have 2 or more prior convictions of theft. They may even be required to pay a fine of up to $2,000 rather than $1,000, which is what typically the fine for a petty theft looks like.


Consequences that a former theft offender might face


A criminal history that shows a theft record bears major consequences in the life of the offender. A past record of theft charges can pose serious difficulties in an ex-offender's ability to get a job. One often finds businesses and firms making a thorough background check on anyone they’re looking to employ. If moral turpitude or a criminal charge comes up on an individual’s background check, the company might refuse to hire them. Moreover, such a criminal history might also raise residence difficulties for former offenders, in addition to limiting their opportunities for immigration, education, and so on.


Contact Us Today

Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case. The first consultation can be in person or it can be virtual, on the Internet. Call Gaynell Williams today at (504) 302-2462 for a free consultation as soon as possible. We will work around your schedule. New Orleans lawyers Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law have offices in Gretna and Downtown New Orleans by appointment only.


This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.


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