Understanding the difference between misdemeanor and felony theft in South Carolina can be crucial for individuals facing criminal charges. South Carolina law categorizes theft based on the perceived severity of the crime, resulting in significantly different legal ramifications.
The main difference between misdemeanor and felony theft is the value of the stolen property, but other factors can impact the charges. If you have been arrested for theft, don’t wait to contact a Greenville criminal defense lawyer at Baldwin Law.
The Value Threshold: a Key Determinant
The primary distinguishing factor between misdemeanor and felony theft in South Carolina revolves around the monetary value of the stolen property. A $1,000 value threshold acts as a legal dividing line, dictating the potential charges and penalties faced by an individual accused of theft.
What Qualifies as Misdemeanor Theft?
In South Carolina, thefts involving property valued at less than $1,000 are misdemeanor offenses, as outlined in S.C. Code § 16-13-30(A). This section defines “petit larceny” as the “taking of goods, chattels, or other articles of personal property” with a value exceeding “$200 but not more than $1,000.”
Additionally, S.C. Code § 16-13-30(B) specifies situations where even thefts of property “valued at two hundred dollars or less” can constitute misdemeanor larceny. This includes instances where the property stolen is:
- “Public record or document”
- “Any part of a dead human body”
In such cases, the potential penalties remain within the misdemeanor range, highlighting the seriousness attributed to certain categories of stolen items even if their monetary value falls below the general threshold.
What Is Considered Felony Theft?
When the stolen property’s value surpasses $2,000, the offense becomes felony theft. S.C. Code § 16-13-30(B) categorizes “grand larceny” as the taking of “goods, chattels, instruments, or other personalty valued in excess of two thousand dollars.”
It’s crucial to note that the value threshold alone doesn’t paint the entire picture. S.C. Code § 16-13-30(C) introduces mitigating factors that can potentially reduce the charge down to misdemeanor larceny even if the stolen property’s value exceeds $2,000. These factors include:
- Restitution made before charge: If the accused promptly returns the stolen property to the owner before facing charges, the court may consider downgrading the offense to a misdemeanor.
- First-time offense: For individuals with no prior criminal record, especially of a similar nature, the court may exercise leniency and reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.
- Age of the accused: Minors may receive reduced charges or alternative sentencing options due to their age and legal status.
Beyond Value: Additional Factors in Classification
It’s important to note that the value of stolen property is not the only consideration in theft charges. Several additional factors can potentially elevate a misdemeanor theft to a felony despite the stolen property’s value remaining below $2,000. These factors include:
- Prior Convictions: Individuals with prior convictions for theft or other related offenses may face felony charges for what would otherwise be considered misdemeanor theft.
- Method of Theft: Employing force, threats, or intimidation during the theft act can elevate the charge to felony level, regardless of the stolen property’s value.
- Type of Property Stolen: Specific categories of property, such as firearms, government documents, or prescription drugs, often carry heightened penalties, potentially resulting in felony charges irrespective of the monetary value.
Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony Theft
The distinction between misdemeanor and felony theft carries immense weight when considering the potential consequences. Individuals convicted of misdemeanor theft in South Carolina typically face:
- Jail sentences: Up to 30days
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Probation: Mandatory or discretionary depending on the specific circumstance
Conversely, felony theft convictions have significantly harsher consequences, including:
- Prison sentences: Ranging from five to ten years depending on the severity of the offense and any aggravating factors
- Significant fines: Often exceeding $5,000
- Long-term negative impacts: Felony convictions can hinder employment opportunities, housing applications, and even loan approvals, significantly impacting an individual’s professional and personal life.
Call a Skilled Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer
Navigating the complexities of theft charges in South Carolina requires careful consideration and understanding of the applicable laws. If you face accusations of theft, regardless of the perceived severity, seeking guidance from a qualified legal professional is paramount.
An experienced Greenville criminal defense attorney at Baldwin Law can assess your specific case, develop a strong defense strategy, and advocate for your best interests throughout the legal proceedings.