As we move into the holiday season, the crime of theft is likely to increase. In typical years, theft increases 22% in December when compared to the average for all other months combined. But, since consumer financial hardship is a top driver for theft, we expect the crime of theft to be even greater this year due to COVID-19 complications. In this article, which is a companion piece to our eBook What You Should Know About Holiday Theft, we explore holiday theft and its common penalties and defenses.
Crimes of Theft
First, it is helpful to understand the common crimes involving theft. They include theft, robbery, and burglary.
Theft. Theft occurs when someone takes the personal belongings or property of another person without consent, without the use of force, but with the intent to permanently deprive the person of their property.
Robbery. A person commits robbery when he or she takes the personal belongings or property of another person with the use of force, threat, or intimidation. And, if the person uses a weapon when taking another’s personal belongings or property, it will be aggravated robbery.
Burglary. Burglary occurs when someone enters a building without consent with the intent to commit a crime inside. Most often, the intended crime is theft. Depending on the circumstances of the burglary, a person can be charged with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree burglary.
For more information about the crimes of theft and burglary in Colorado, see our website.
Common Types of Holiday Theft
During the holiday season, theft most often occurs when people engage in shoplifting, employee theft, and package theft. All three of these types of theft tend to increase during the holidays when people feel the burdens of financial stress more and when opportunities to commit theft increase. We’ll take a look at each here.
Shoplifting. A typical holiday shopping season sees plenty of people in stores, lots of inventory on the shelves, and a busy and often distracted retail staff. And, when people are suffering the consequences of an economic downturn, such as the one we’re experiencing now due to COVID-19, the incentive to shoplift may be even greater. On average, more than $13 billion dollars’ worth of goods are stolen from retailers every year. If you are caught shoplifting, you may need to pay for an attorney, pay restitution to the store you stole from, pay a fine, court costs, and more. In other words, a quick sleight of hand can turn expensive very quickly.
Employee Theft. When employees steal from their employers, it is known as employee theft. A person might commonly steal cash, merchandise, or supplies. It is also considered employee theft to lie about hours worked, thereby stealing time and unearned compensation from one’s employer. Employee theft results in 4 times the losses when compared to shoplifting. In fact, a staggering $53.6 billion dollars in annual losses in the U.S. each year result from employee theft. Depending on the value of items stolen, a person who commits employee theft could experience a warning from the employer, the loss of his or her job, and potential criminal prosecution.
Package Theft. Particularly in this age of prolific online shopping, most of us are familiar with package theft. It occurs when someone steals one or more packages that have been delivered to someone else’s porch or mailbox. It is estimated that 97% of consumers are doing some sort of holiday online shopping this year, so we expect to see package theft occurring at significant rates. But, as more people now have front door cameras installed to monitor activity, the chance of being caught stealing packages has increased, too. Of course, if you’re caught on camera engaging in package theft, your defenses are very limited. Reports around Colorado are already coming in showing that package theft is happening this holiday season.
Penalties for Holiday Theft
The penalties for these common types of holiday theft may include fines, the payment of restitution, and/or jail time. The penalties associated with holiday theft vary depending on a number of different factors. Of course, the value of the items stolen influences the penalties ultimately handed down by a court. Not surprisingly, as the value of stolen items increases, the likelihood of greater associated penalties increases, too.
A person convicted of these types of theft can owe fines in the amount of $500 up to $1 million dollars depending on the value stolen and other factors. If a person convicted of theft also used force, threats, or intimidation, the penalties are likely to increase as a result. And, if the convicted also has a history of committing other instances of theft within 6 months of the most recent occurrence of theft, this will lead to aggregation of the value of stolen items and a penalty based on the combined value of stolen items. For more detailed information about potential penalties associated with holiday theft, see our eBook What You Should Know About Holiday Theft.
In short, a court will commonly look at the criminal history of the accused, what was stolen and its value, and the resulting effects on the public.
Defenses to Common Holiday Theft
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges associated with some form of theft, it may be best to hire an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney. For example, attorneys can seek to reduce the associated penalty. As you now know, this can mean reduced fines, jail time, and probation.
Also, if a person accused of committing theft did not actually commit the crime, hiring an attorney is imperative. The attorney can try to get the charges dismissed in that case. Or, if an attorney can show that no theft occurred, or that there was no intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the property, or that the police performed an illegal search when it found the stolen items, the attorney will seek to dismiss or reduce the charges significantly. An attorney can also recommend that the accused complete community service, mental health treatments, or relevant educational courses in order to reduce a sentence.
Hiring an attorney can be expensive. At Nicol Gersch Petterson, we have several options that will make legal help more affordable. Unlike many lawyers who charge hourly for their services – meaning you won’t know the total amount due for legal representation until you receive your last bill – we offer flat fee pricing. That means you’ll know up front what your case will cost. We also offer financing options if you need a longer period of time to pay for your legal costs. Finally, we also offer Legal DIY toolkits in the event you’d like to handle your case on your own but want some legal support in doing so. Pricing varies depending on the extent of the legal support. Contact us today to review your options.
Need Legal Help?
If you are in need of criminal defense or family law help, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
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