This article is written by Nishka Kamath. It is an attempt to enlighten the readers about different types of crimes against property in the United States. The article has everything covered for crimes against property in the US, including detailed examples of each of the crimes, the historical background of how such laws came into existence, cases that acted as precedents for establishing such laws, recent changes in crimes against property, and the statistics related to crimes against property, inter alia. Further, under every heading, the author has endeavored to provide a detailed description of each of the crimes against property. Happy reading!

Table of Contents


I am sure you know there are several crimes committed against people, like murder or rape, but have you ever wondered what sort of crimes could be committed against one’s property? If yes, this article will provide you with an in-depth understanding of each of the crimes against property. For starters, the crimes against property are as follows:

  1. Forgery,
  2. Robbery,
  3. Embezzlement,
  4. Extortion,
  5. Larceny,
  6. Burglary,
  7. Vandalism,
  8. Arson,
  9. Shoplifting,
  10. Receiving stolen property, etc.

Excited to read about each of them? Let’s get started!

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Crimes in the US

Crimes can be defined as an act or omission that oversteps any set law or provision as mentioned in any Constitution, Act or Code of that particular jurisdiction. Every country, state and legal justification have their own set of rules and regulations to describe and determine the crime that occurred. Even though committing a crime is regarded as an infringement of the set laws, not all acts or omissions that infringe the law can amount to a crime. Thus, considering the variance and subjectivity of crimes from one jurisdiction to another, several constitutions identify and classify crimes differently. The criminal justice system of the United States has a great mandate of executing criminal law by either arresting, prosecuting, or correcting criminals to bolster and strengthen law and order in society. 

Additionally, in order for an offender to be considered guilty of a crime and convicted by the criminal justice system, one must prove beyond reasonable doubt that there is/was an existence of actus reus and mens rea as elements of the crime. On one hand, actus reus is an element of crime that proves whether or not a suspect had any premeditated action and is/was guilty of conscience to commit a certain crime; on the other hand, mens rea is an element that discerns whether the act or omission was in violation of the set laws. Now that we know the basic elements of crime, let us now take a look at what crimes against property are.

Crimes against property in the US

Crimes against property can be defined as those crimes or offenses that deny ownership rights of property or destroy property as opposed to the owner’s agreement or without obtaining any prior consent from the owner of that property. Some instances of crimes against property are as follows:

  1. Forgery,
  2. Robbery,
  3. Embezzlement,
  4. Extortion,
  5. Larceny,
  6. Arson,
  7. Shoplifting,
  8. Burglary,
  9. Vandalism,
  10. Receiving stolen property, etc.

In other words, crime against property can be described as any criminal activity that destroys another property or an activity that deprives an owner of his/her property as opposed to the will of the owner of that property. These days, criminal law regards such offenses as less serious than violent crimes or other offenses like crime against person, crimes against public order, etc. However, it is noteworthy that crimes against property can constitute very serious felony charges.

This article is an attempt to discuss all of these crimes against property in great detail.

Examples of crimes against property in the US

Example 1 : defrauding

Say, there is a case where a company named ProtonPulse Innovators defrauded Insurify, an insurance company, for millions of dollars through compensation. ProtonPulse Innovators have been struggling, or rather were careless, for quite a while to stay up to date with the repairs and maintenance of electronic equipment at their office for around 5-6 years. The damage kept piling up and cost millions of dollars, which ProtonPulse Innovators found quite costly and thus decided to plot a plan and defraud the insurance company. 

In order to implement the plan, the company destroyed underground cables to justify their claim and contacted the insurance company for compensation (for millions of dollars), claiming the electronic equipment was damaged when there was recent thunder lightning in the city, thus causing a short-circuit.

Here, ProtonPulse Innovators’ management is definitely guilty of committing crime against property by acting in actus reus and mens rea. Defrauding the insurance company in this case is regarded as actus reus as the management had already planned and executed the plan and the company’s action was mens rea as the company violated not only the insurance policy, but also the law that covers crimes against property.

Example 2 : forgery

Mrs. Faker modified a signed cheque she found on the road somewhere, changed the name of the payee and also added some 0’s to the cheque and cashed it at a bank. In this case, she is guilty of committing forgery.

Example 3 : robbery

Mr. Thief saw Ms. Victim walking alone late in the night. Mr. Thief, wanting to take advantage of his situation, confronted her in a dark alley and removed a knife from his pocket to threaten her. Then he forcefully snatched her purse, containing her essentials, cellphone and even her wallet. In this case, Mr. Thief has committed the offense of robbery. 

Example 4 : embezzlement

Ms. Employee, who worked for an accounting company named EliteEdgeCapital, one of the largest companies in the state of Novaterra, siphoned off a lot of the company’s money into her personal bank account over several years. When the company became aware of such an action, she was charged with committing embezzlement.

Example 5 : extortion

Mr. Extortionist came across some sensitive and damaging data about Ms. Victim and threatened that he would reveal the information everywhere unless she paid him a large amount of money. Here, Mr. Extortionist has committed the offense of extortion.

Example 6 : larceny

Ms. Thief noticed there was an unlocked car parked on the street near TilMArt and went on to see if he could find anything inside it. He then stole a laptop and a camera from that car and disappeared in thin air. Here, he has committed the offense of larceny.

Example 7 : burglary

Mr. Rob was keeping an eye on one of the houses in the city of Cascadia. One fine day, he noticed the owner of the house, Mr. Den, was going off on vacation. He then entered Mr. Den’s house and stole his valuable jewelry and electronics. Here, Rob will be charged with the offense of burglary.

Example 8 : vandalism

The Spraycan Spartans, a group of teenagers, spray-painted graffiti on the walls of a local park’s restroom. This caused a huge loss and damage to the property. In this case, the offense of vandalism is committed by the group.

Example 9 : arson

In a town named Zephyria, a man, Mr. Arsonist, set up an abandoned warehouse, thus causing a lot of destruction to that building. This fire needed to be set off by calling the fire department in an emergency. Here, Mr. Arsonist has committed arson against that property.

Example 10 : shoplifting

In the city of Phoenica, there was a mall named City Center Shopping Center, where one Ms. Shoplifter concealed a designer handbag from a store named LuxePurse Haven, hid it in her shopping bag, and then left the store without paying any money for the same. In this case, Ms. Shoplifter has committed the offense of shoplifting.

Example 11 : receiving stolen property

Mr. Receiver, despite being skeptical, bought a high-end bicycle from one of his acquaintances, Mr. Stealer, for a meager sum of money. Here, Mr. Receiver will be said to have committed the offense of receiving stolen property, and Mr. Stealer has committed theft.

Historical background of origination of crimes against property in the US

Crimes against an individual’s property have been one of the major concerts all throughout the history of the United States. On one hand, the main goal of criminal law is to maintain social order in society as well as protect the state’s authority; on the other hand, criminal law is quite crucial to safeguarding an individual’s personal property while also restoring a good environment for the economic activity of society.

Going as far back as 1473, in England, traces of the right to protect one’s personal property can be witnessed. As we know, the crime of larceny is one of the oldest crimes in the category of crimes against property. Throughout history, courts all across the world have recognized the essence and importance of one’s right to protect property.

Throughout the end of the eighteenth century and through the beginning of the nineteenth century, significant changes were made in crimes against property. One of the main reasons for the modifications was highway robbery. As roads started to become less isolated and more people started using roads to travel, patrols became increasingly common. Over time, controlling crimes against property has focused on deterrence and penalizing the offender, with imprisonment for some time as a way to disable the offenders from repeating the same crime and not re-offending.

Precedent setting case for crimes against property

Gideon v. Wainwright [372 U.S. 335 (1963)]

In the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), an individual who was a drifter was charged with the offense of felony theft. This incident took place in Florida in the 1950s.

During the trial, Gideon was found guilty for the offense he was thus charged with, but there was a claim that such an incident took place because he represented himself in court instead of hiring a lawyer, as court appointed lawyers were only made available to individuals who were charged with capital offenses.

This case was then filed with the Supreme Court of the United States, which reached the inference that lawyers must be provided to those individuals who cannot afford legal aid or a lawyer on their own. Such a decision has a substantial impact on the state of Florida, as the state has been rejecting such an aid for a convicted felon. After the decision was enacted, almost 2000 convicts were set free in the state. The state simply released the felons instead of spending time, money and resources conducting a trial all over again.

Tennessee v. Garner [471 U.S. 1 (1985)]

In the landmark case of Tennessee v. Garner (1985), two law officers occurred at the scene of an incident where a burglary took place. One of the suspected burglars was seen escaping from the scene. Looking at his escape, one of the police officers shot the suspects while he was climbing over the fence. During 1985, the Tennessee law had a provision that stated that a police officer could use whatever force was necessary to stop a suspect or offender from escaping the situation and arrest him. Garner’s father filed a lawsuit, the case went up to the United States Supreme Court. The Court ruled that an officer has the authority to use deadly force to forbid a suspect or offender from escaping only if there is probable cause that the suspect poses a serious physical threat or significant threat of death to the officer or to another individual.

Changes in crimes against property in the US

When there was British common law, only one crime was regarded as a crime against property, and that was larceny. Further, there was only one punishment in those times for such an offense, i.e., death. As time passed, judges became hesitant to pronounce the death penalty for petty crimes like theft and pick-pocketing. Furthermore, many crimes that resembled larceny were classified as something else, and the death penalty was avoided. Moreover, in the United States, where life and liberty categorically have value above property, no crime committed against property is considered serious enough to warrant awarding a death penalty.

Now that we have read the basics of crimes against property, let us take a look at each of these crimes in detail.


What is forgery

Forgery is regarded as the creation of false legal documents or the act of modifying an existing legal document with the intention to mislead, defraud or delude another person(s). The crime of forgery can be said to have been committed when a person has completed drafting the entire document, irrespective of whether such a document was used to defraud or deceive another person or not.

Also, it must be noted that the scope of the offense of forgery is limited to those documents that have some ‘legal significance’, meaning if the document, if considered to be genuine, will carry some legal importance, like conveying property or providing an individual with the authority to drive. Any falsified document will not be considered forgery when it simply has a mere impact on an individual’s reputation or profession, like a fabricated newspaper or a politician’s evasion of military service.

Further, forgery is quite similar to other crimes related to property. Here, the forger (or the offender) unlawfully receives an advantage from another person.

Forgery and the Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code (MPC) extends forgery to all kinds of documents. This would also include an attempt numerous years ago to sell a manuscript that was allegedly said to be the diary of Adolf Hitler, but, in reality, it was a fraud produced skillfully. Fraudulent documents that may be punished as forgery under several statutes of the state include the following:  

  1. Checks,
  2. Currency,
  3. Passports,
  4. Driver’s license,
  5. Deeds,
  6. Diplomas,
  7. Tickets,
  8. Credit cards,
  9. Immigration visas, and
  10. Residency and work permits.

Examples of forgery

Forgery of historical documents

The ‘Hitler Diaries’ scandal

There was a West German magazine titled “Stern” that made an announcement that they had found the personal diaries of Adolf Hitler. The forged journals were published and sold by the magazine and claimed to provide some insightful insights on Hitler’s thoughts and actions during World War II. Stern magazines originally purchased it from a man named “Konrad Kajau”, a petty criminal who would collect and deal with Nazi memorabilia.

The material initially even deceived scientists, historians and experts; however, after carrying out proper forensic analysis of the subject matter, as well as the ink used to write and the paper upon which these manuscripts were written, it was found that they were forged. This incident sparked quite an outrage 40 years ago. They are now to be displayed for public viewing at the national archives in Germany.

Forgery in the digital era

Cryptocurrency and forgery

Mr. Forger, a person with a lot of knowledge of hacking computers and codes, established a new type of cryptocurrency and then convinced Mr. Purchaser to buy it. Mr. Purchaser, considering such a currency to be authentic and a valuable asset, invested a huge amount of money, considering it a sane financial investment. However, it turned out to be a well-crafted, sophisticated digital forgery. After the amount was received, Mr. Forgery, obviously, disappeared without a trace.

Digital art and forgery

Mr. Forger, a digital artist with great talent and potential, falsely added the signature of a well-renowned artist and went about selling it to Mr. Purchaser, who was an admirer and collector of art. Mr. Purchaser, considering it to be an authentic piece of art created by a renowned artist, bought the digital painting, but he was unaware of the fact that such a painting was actually forged by Mr. Forger.

Such instances show how forgery can take place in modern times, thus causing huge financial losses. That is why one must be very careful while making financial investments and always cross-verify the authenticity of the company to save oneself from such frauds.

History of forgery

The law against forgery originated as a punishment when individuals used or copied the king’s seal without obtaining prior consent from him. The seal was traditionally affixed to documents that gave several rights and privileges to individuals. Using this seal without consent was considered to be an attack on royal power and prerogative. Gradually, the law of forgery was extended to include public and private documents.

Forgery was penalized or criminalized to make sure that individuals could trust or count on the authenticity or truth of documents. In other words, say Mr. Brian goes to get a car but is unsure if the seller is authentic or not, or even if the car he wants to buy is from a verified car owner or not. This is why forgery was penalized. Now, the title Brian will receive in the event of a genuine transaction will be authentic and will guarantee that the automobile was not stolen from a third party. 

Also, fighting against the forgery of visas and passports has been of significant importance in protecting the borders of the United States from terror attacks or the entry of terrorist entities into the state.

Elements of forgery

There are some elements for the offense of forgery to be considered for punishment. Each of the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A false document or material modification of a previously existing document that is-
  1. Written with the intention to defraud another person, and
  2. If genuine, must have legal significance.

Actus reus and mens rea under forgery

Actus reus

While studying forgery, it is pertinent to remember that forgery is falsely making or materially making modifications to an already existing document. This may also include creating a false document or materially (fundamentally) altering or revising an existing document without proper authorization. A material modification can be defined as a change or addition that has legal significance.

A forgery may also involve-

  1. Manufacturing or creating a “false identification” for a friend who is too young or hasn’t reached the legal age to drink;
  2. Producing fake passport for a person who wants to enter the United States in an illegal manner; or
  3. Fabricating tickets to a sold-out rock concert.

Forgery may also involve- stealing a check, signing the signature of the owner without obtaining consent, and then making payment to himself (say, for $100). Here, even though the check itself is genuine, the details filled in (the signature, the name of the receiver, and the like) were not authentic, thus being considered an act of forgery. However, if another person has simply added a date to an undated check, then it wouldn’t constitute a material alteration, as such a change does not have any typical legal implication. Simply put, the question to consider to ascertain if the offense of forgery was committed or not is whether a document is indeed a ‘false writing’ or not. Please note that the document may be false, or the material statements in the document could also be materially inaccurate.

Mens rea

For an offense to be regarded as forgery, there has to be an intention to defraud; this intention does not necessarily have to be orchestrated against a specific person.

Penalty for forgery

The basic penalty for the offense of forgery is imprisonment between 3 to 20 years, depending on the severity of the crime thus committed. Let us take a look at a state-wise perspective for such an offense.

Forgery as a property crime in different states


The offense of forgery can be penalized as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Columbia. Misdemeanor forgery attracts punishment of up to one year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000, whereas a felony forgery charge may result in up to ten years in jail and a fine that has to be ascertained by the judge.


Committing the act of forgery either on financial documents and/or possessing forged official or financial documents in Alabama come under Class B or C felonies, depending on the nature of the document thus forged. Class B felonies attract 2 to 20 years of jail time and a fine of up to $30,000. Whereas, Class C felonies attract jail time ranging from one year plus one month to ten years and a fine of up to $15,000 or about double the amount of money thus lost by the victim or gained by the defendant

Or else, the offenses of committing forgery and possessing a forged instrument are Class A misdemeanors that can be punishable for up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $6000. Please note that possession of forgery tools is regarded as a Class C felony.


In Texas, forgery crimes can be regarded as felonies or misdemeanors, considering the document or thing forged or the value of the property or service sought through such an act.

Felony penalties for forgery in Texas

State jail felony

Forgery will be said to be a state felony if:

  1. The forged document is in writing and is either a-
  1. Will,
  2. Deed,
  3. Mortgage,
  4. Security instrument, or
  5. An agreement,
  6. A check,
  7. A credit card,
  8. Contract,
  9. Release, or
  10. Authorization for payment of money, or
  11. To debit a financial account.
  12. The defendant forged the writing to take possession of a property or services that are worth between $2500 and $29,999.

A state jail felony attracts imprisonment of up to 18 months to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Felony of the Third Degree

Forgery will be considered a third-degree felony if:

  1. The instrument forged is either of the following:
  1. Paper money,
  2. Stocks,
  3. Bonds,
  4. Postage,
  5. Revenue stamps,
  6. A government record, or
  7. An item issued by a state or national government.
  8. The defendant forged the document for the purpose of obtaining property or services worth between $30,000 and $149,999.

Such an offense is punishable by 2 to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000.

Felony of the Second Degree

The act of forgery is a second-degree offense if the defendant or the offender has forged any writing to take possession of a property or service worth $150,000 to $299,999. Such an act is punishable by 2 to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Felony of the First Degree

The act of forgery is a second-degree offense if the defendant or the offender has forged any writing to take possession of a property or service worth $150,000 to $299,999. Such an act is punishable by a minimum of 5 years, up to 99 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Misdemeanor penalties for forgery in Texas

Under Texas statutes, the following acts of forgery are regarded as misdemeanor:

Class C misdemeanor

Forgery can be regarded as a Class C misdemeanor if the defendant or the offender forged any writing in order to take possession of a property or services worth less than $100; however, this Class C misdemeanor is a fine-only offense with a maximum fine of $500.

Class B misdemeanor

Forgery can be regarded as a Class B misdemeanor if the defendant or the offender forged any writing in order to take possession of a property or services worth less than $100 to $749; however, a Class B misdemeanor attracts a maximum punishment of 180 days behind bars and a fine of up to $2000.

Class A misdemeanor

A forgery is regarded as a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant or the offender forged the writing in order to obtain property or services worth  $750 to $2499. Further, any forgery that involves any instrument that is not listed under state jail felonies or third degree felonies is considered a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors attract a punishment of up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $4000, or, at times, both.

Enhanced penalties for forgery under Texas law

There are severe penalties imposed when forgery crimes involve an elderly victim. Offenders with criminal records may also be subjected to penalty enhancements; let us take a look at them.

Elderly victims of forgery

If a victim is over the age of 65, the offense of forgery will automatically increase to the next higher category. For instance, if an offender commits a state jail felony forgery against a 75 year-old victim, the penalty will go up to a third degree felony. This punishment is applicable to both felony and misdemeanor forgeries.

Habitual and repeat offender punishments

The state will expand the punishment in case the offender has repeated the crime or is on the list of habitual offenders. The punishment will be increased depending on the offense level for the current and previous crimes committed and the number of offenses the offender was convicted of before. Mostly, the penalties increase by one level or degree (say, the offender is convicted of a third degree felony but will be charged with a second degree felony in case of repeating the crime). Both habitual felonies and misdemeanors face enhanced punishments in Texas. 

New York

Statutes for definitions

In New York, the following statutes cover the offense of forgery:


First degree felony

For first degree forgery, which is considered a Class C felony, the punishment is up to 15 years of jail time and a fine of up to $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the commission of the forgery.

Second degree felony

For second degree forgery, which is regarded as a Class D felony, there is a punishment of up to 7 years in prison and up to $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the commission of the forgery.

Third degree felony

For third degree forgery, which is said to be a Class A misdemeanor, there is a punishment of up to one year of jail time and around $1,000 as a fine.

Available defenses for the offense of forgery in the US

The following are some of the potential defenses against forgery:

Lack of intent

One of the main elements for forgery to be committed is the intent to defraud, decisive or trick the victim with a forged document; this intention is the key element without which the defendant cannot be found guilty.

Lack of capacity of knowledge

The defendant has to have knowledge that the document was forged in order to be held guilty of forgery. Knowledge is the key to proving that the defendant had the required intention; if they did not know or did not possess the mental capacity to know, then this can be regarded as a valid defense.


If the defendant was forced to commit forgery because the defendant or any of his/her near and dear ones were threatened, then it is a valid defense.


A defendant has the defense of consent if they forged any document by obtaining prior permission with the consent or cooperation of the alleged victim. 

Please note : Most defenses to forgery address the necessary element of the intent to defraud or deceive. Proving that the defendant had no specific intent is a complete defense altogether because it means that the defendant did not possess the required mental state to commit the crime.


What is robbery

Robbery can be defined as theft that is achieved through violence or the threat of violence. Unlike other property related crimes like theft or burglary, robbery typically involves the presence of a victim who has faced or undergone the threat of bodily harm. Further, the offender will be charged in a serious manner (higher criminal charges will be levied upon him/her) if any sort of deadly weapon was used to commit the crime or if the victim suffered an injury. Such an activity will then be considered ‘armed’ or ‘aggravated’ robbery.

Example of robbery

Say, there is a person named Rambo who sneaks up on Alicia, demanding Alicia’s money while squeezing a plastic object onto her back. Alicia, frightened by the act, gives up her purse. When Rambo is caught, law enforcement authorities will charge him with the offense of robbery. Further, if Rambo used a real gun or Alicia had sustained any type of injury, then Rambo would be charged with armed robbery or aggravated battery. In some states of the US, the charges won’t be reduced if the gun is not real; thus, Rambo would still face the chance of an armed robbery even if he showed or threatened Alicia with the fake gun.

Elements of robbery

As we know, every state will have some or another provision for the offense of robbery; however, each definition will have the same essential element of robbery. So, robbery consists of the following elements:

  1. Taking something with the intention of stealing it (in some states in the US, the crime of robbery is even considered an offense, irrespective of whether the robber took the property or not).
  2. Taking possession of someone else’s personal property.
  3. Taking someone’s personal property as opposed to their will. 
  4. Taking property by violence, threat or physical force against another individual (some statutes in the US require an imminent threat). 

Force : another important element

The element of force sits at the core of the crime of robbery. One must note that the timing of the force matters as well. For instance, say Mr. Thief only used violence while he was escaping from the scene; in that case, the charges would include theft and perhaps assault, but not necessarily robbery. The use or threat of force can be very minimal. Further, a robbery has taken place even if a small amount of violence or intimidation is used; this amount is enough to force another person to turn over their property. Also, police and prosecutors also consider the differences between a robber and a victim, like the following:

  1. The size of the robber and the victim,
  2. The age of the robber and the victim,
  3. The disability (if any) of the robber and the victim, etc.

Robbery under federal jurisdiction

Usually, the state authorities have the authority to prosecute robbery primarily; however, the crime at times comes under federal jurisdiction. Federal criminal statutes identify several categories of robbery offenses that can be prosecuted on a federal level. These include:

  1. Robbery of a property that actually belongs to the United States,
  2. Robberies of post offices that ultimately result in mail theft,
  3. Some robberies of controlled substances or motor vehicles, and
  4. Different kinds of bank robberies.

Penalty for robbery

The basic penalty for the offense of robbery is imprisonment for up to 15 years. Further, the federal bank robbery statute recognizes the federal interest in safeguarding the federally insured deposits. Moreover, it also safeguards credit unions, savings and loan institutions. It defines and outlines penalties for bank robberies and other crimes related to theft; some of them are as follows:

  1. Bank robbery by traditional means like using force, violence or intimidation;
  2. Bank robbery is the act of taking or an attempt to take (steal) from the bank.

(Please note : Such an act is punishable for up to 20 years of imprisonment.)

Other crimes related to robbery include:

  1. Bank robbery by extortion,
  2. Burglary of a bank,
  3. Theft from a bank of a value that is less than $1000 (such an act may attract a penalty of up to one year of imprisonment),
  4. Theft from a bank of a value greater than $1000 (such an act may attract a penalty of up to ten years of imprisonment),
  5. Assault while committing any of the aforementioned activities, or using any dangerous weapon while committing any of the aforementioned activities (such an act may attract a penalty of up to twenty five years of imprisonment),
  6. Receiving, storing, or fencing money or goods stolen from a bank while being completely aware of the fact that the property or the goods were stolen (such an act may be punishable as the same penalties as the primary offender will be sentenced to),
  7. Killing or taking hostages of anyone while committing any of the aforementioned crimes (such an activity is punishable by at least 10 years in prison and up to life imprisonment or even death, in the case of a robbery-related murder).

Over a period of time, federal prosecution of bank robberies has developed quite a rich history of case laws, exploring the law’s nuances. For instance, breaking into an ATM may or may not be considered a federal bank robbery; it simply depends on a lot of circumstances, like the presence or absence of a customer.

Actus reus and mens rea for the offense of robbery

Actus reus

For an offense to be considered robbery, the property has to be taken from the person or in the presence of the victim. The property is said to be on the victim if the victim has the property in his or her hands or pockets or if the property is attached to his/her body (say, an earring or a necklace) or clothing (say, a keychain or a brooch made up of real diamond).

Please note that the mandate that an object had to be taken from the ‘presence of the victim‘ is quite difficult to apply in real life. The rule states that the property has to be within the proximity and control of the affected person (the victim). One might wonder what exactly this means. Let us read about it. The prosecution has to illustrate that if the victim had been subjected to any sort  of violence or intimidation, then he/she could have deterred the offender from taking the property away. One must note that one of the major differences between robbery and larceny is that in robbery, there is some use of violence or intimidation.

Mens rea

The assailant has to have the intention to permanently restrain the individual from accessing his/her property. The defendant may drond on the familiar defense that he/she intended only to borrow the property or was cracking a practical joke. Courts have different opinions about whether it is a defense that the offender or thief acted under a ‘claim of right’, or that the thief acted under an honest belief that the victim owed some amount of money, or that the defendant reasonably believed he/she had ownership of the property. Some courts are of the opinion that even a claim of right does not justify the resort to force or intimidate someone to reclaim the property. 

Robbery as a property crime in different states

Robbery is actually a serious crime; however, some states differ on provisions as to when a  theft is regarded as robbery versus pickpocketing, for that matter. Generally, American criminal law inherited definitions of robbery from the common law of the English legal system. Now, most of the states in the United States of America have codified robbery statutes in their Penal Codes, and legislatures and statutes have defined this crime differently. Now, states commonly differentiate robbery into distinct degrees based on the severity of that particular crime. 

Some states have provisions that upgrade second degree robbery to first degree robbery if the robber has used any dangerous weapon or made an attempt to inflict the victim with some serious bodily harm or injury. Moreover, some states regard the latter type of robbery as aggravated robbery.

Let us take a look at the provisions for the offense of robbery in different states in the United States.


The California Criminal Code describes robbery as the “felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.” 

New York

In the state of New York, for an individual to be charged with the offense of robbery, there has to be the use of force, threat or force in order to increase the damage thus caused to the victim.


In Maine, juries can infer simply that the amount of force needed and used to grab the wallet could meet the use of force element of the crime.


What is theft

Since time immemorial, people have been commonly using the term ‘theft’ to describe any illegal activity or crime that involved taking another individual’s property or money without obtaining his/her prior consent. Nonetheless, there is a precise definition of theft in legal terms. Also, theft may encompass more than one category of crime (ranging from larceny to burglary to theft).

Generally, the term is described as the intentional and unlawful act of taking away someone else’s property without their consent; however, the concise definition is slightly different from state to state. Some states define theft based on the common law concept of larceny (which is taking away someone else’s property to constrain the owner from having possession of that property permanently). While some states have merged theft with larceny, others have agreed to keep it as a separate offense.

Examples of theft as a crime against property

Example 1

Mr. Grabby saw a wallet lying on a public park bench and took it away without obtaining the consent of Mr. Unknowy, the owner (who presumably was sitting next to Mr. Grabby). He (Mr. Grabby) did this without the owner’s knowledge or consent. If caught, Mr. Grabby could be charged with theft.

Example 2

In a cafe named ‘The Frothy Fix’, a lady named Ms. Pocketey noticed that a woman named Ms. Clueless, was working on her laptop while also talking over a phone call, and her bag was lying underneath her, which was beyond her eye view and thus unattended. Wanting to take advantage of such an opportunity, Ms. Pocketey quickly swipes a smartphone and a smartwatch from the bag and escapes the cafe. Here, if caught, Ms. Pocketey could be charged with theft for taking away the smartphone without the owner’s consent.

Example 3

Mr. Quickfingers goes to a mart, where he notices there is a purse left unattended in a shopping cart. Taking full advantage of the situation, he quickly takes away the purse and escapes the mart. If caught, such actions may result in theft charges.

Example 4

There is a pop-singer artist’s concert where Ms. Sneakpeak decides to visit and steal some items. She steals a camera, a smartphone and a wallet from the audience and flees from the concert in no time. If caught, such an act may lead to theft charges being levied upon her.

Example 5

Mr. Grabber notices an unlocked bicycle left outside a gym, quickly grabs it and escapes the place. Such an act could result in theft charges.

Example 6

Mr. Sneaker skillfully removes a wallet and some money from a passenger traveling on a crowded subway train. If caught, he could be charged with committing theft.

Example 7

In a library named Meadowbrook Public Library and Knowledge Center, a person named Ms. Borrower took a valuable book and never came back to return it. Such an act may be considered a theft of library property.

Example 8

Mr. Deceptive sold fake tickets to Rockstar Pop’s concert without providing real tickets. If caught, he will be charged with the offense of committing theft.

Example 9

Ms. Vanisher notices Mr. Bling Bling Braggeerstein’s bragging about his expensive pen from her desk at work, and when no one was around, she secretly took away his pen. If caught, her actions could lead to theft charges.

Essential elements of theft

Some of the most important factors in those cases include:

Type of property stolen

One of the elements of theft as an offense is what type of property was stolen.

Worth of the property stolen

Another important element of theft as an offense is the worth of the property that was stolen.

The aforementioned factors help the court determine the charges to be levied on the offender and the potential penalties for those individuals who are accused of committing theft. Several states have created provisions that categorize theft into degrees of theft crime coamidring the value of goods or the property thus stolen. The state wise penalties are discussed briefly below

Consolidated theft statutes 

Historically, crimes under the non-violent category  were divided into three categories, namely:

  1. Larceny,
  2. Embezzlement, and
  3. False pretense.

These categories differ in the types of property that can be stolen and the method by which such property is stolen. However, modern jurisdictions have combined all three non violent thefts into one consolidated theft statute. The Model Penal Code consolidates all nonviolent theft offenses, including receiving stolen property and extortion, under one grading system (Model Penal Code § 223.10).

Example of consolidated theft act

A person named Jonathan visits a local convenience store on his way to work and purchases some cigars. However, he pays for the cigars; he slips a packet of mouth freshener in and does not pay for it. Jonathan then goes walking towards his workplace, a local gas station, and when one of the customers buys gas, he only rings him up to half the amount of the purchase. Once his duty hours are finished, Jonathan takes up the other half of the cash from the cash register and puts it into his pocket along with the chewing gum. 

Post work, he decides he wants to go have a drink, so he visits the nearby bar. While enjoying his drink, he happened to meet a patron named David, who is a taxi driver. David, while having a normal conversation with Jonathan, happens to mention he needs a tune-up at the gas station, to which Jonathan offers to provide help in exchange for a taxi ride home. David agrees instantly. Then the duo drives to the gas station, and Jonathan suggests that David take a walk while Jonathan performs the tune up. While David is gone, Jonathan lifts the hood of the taxi and then goes on reading a magazine instead of doing the actual work. Ten minutes later, when David comes back, Jonathan tells him the tune up is complete. David then drives Jonathan to his home without taking any fare.

In this circumstance, Jonathan has performed three separate acts of theft. When he stole the packet of mouth freshener and put it into his packet without paying for it, he physically took someone’s property, which is considered larceny theft. Then, when he fails to ring up the entire sale for a customer and takes up the remaining amount,  he has converted the owner of the gas station’s cash for his personal use, which is said to be an embezzlement theft. When Jonathan falsely claimed that he had performed a tune-up of David’s taxi and then received a free taxi ride in return, he had falsely represented a fact in exchange for a service, which is false pretense theft. He could be held guilty for all three of these acts and be charged under one consolidated theft statute. The three stolen items have a relatively low value, so these crimes would probably be graded as misdemeanors.

Theft as a property crime in different states


In Washington, theft charges are divided into three levels depending on factors like the seriousness of the crime, the value of the property stolen, etc. The degrees are as follows:

Theft 1st degree

Under 9A.56.030, 1st degree theft is regarded as a Class B felony and includes theft of a property or services with a value of $5000 or the theft of any property of any value when such a property is taken from one individual. The punishment for such an offense is 10 years of jail time and a fine of up to $20,000.

Please note : The actual penalty for such an offense is, however, decided by the Sentencing Reform Act (RCW 9.94A) and the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.

Theft 2nd degree

Under 9A.56.040, 2nd degree offense is regarded as a Class C felony and includes theft of a property or services with a value over $750 but not less than $5000 or the theft of an access device (a card, code, or other means of account access). The punishment for such an offense is a maximum of 5 years of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Please note : The actual penalty for such an offense is, however, decided by the Sentencing Reform Act (RCW 9.94A) and the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines.

Theft 3rd degree

Under 9A.56.050, 3rd degree offense is regarded as a gross misdemeanor and includes theft of a property or service with a value less than $750. The punishment for such an offense is a maximum of 364 years of jail time and a fine of up to $5,000 (RCW 9.92.020).

Must know fact : Theft and shoplifting are considered to be the same thing in Washington.


Under the Delaware Criminal Code, the precise definition of the offense of crime can be reversed as taking the property of another individual with the intention to deprive the owner from possessing it (as stated in 11 Del.C.§ 5841). Let us take a look at the different categories of theft under the Delaware provision.

Theft (Class A misdemeanor)

Any theft of a property with a value less than $1500 is considered a Class A misdemeanor. If such an offense is committed for the first time, the offender may be eligible to receive Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) to avoid a criminal conviction on the offender’s record. The presumptive sentence for committing theft for the first time is up to 12 months of non-reporting probation if the offender does not get PBJ. The maximum sentence a judge could sentence the offender to is imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to $2300.

Theft (Class G felony)

Any theft for a property of a value of $1500 or more, or if the victim is aged 62 or above or disabled, is regarded as a Class G felony. The court could sentence the offender to one year of probation. However, this felony theft will be put on the criminal record of the offender. A person can still fight to keep his/her record clean if this is their first offense or they could also try to have their charges downgraded to misdemeanor. The maximum sentence a judge could sentence for felony theft is up to two years of imprisonment. Please note that if the value of the property is $1500 or greater and the victim is 62 or older or has a disability, such an act is regarded as a class F felony.

Theft (Class D Felony)

If the offender has committed a theft between $50,000 and $100,000, such a theft is a class D felony.

Theft (Class B Felony)

If the offender has committed a theft above $100,000, such a theft is a class B felony.

if you take $100,000 or more, theft is a class B felony.


The punishment for theft as an offense in Colorado varies depending on the amount of property thus stolen. Let us take a look at the different categories of theft:

Petty theft

Any property stolen under the value of $50 shall be considered petty theft. The offender shall face imprisonment of up to 6 months and a fine of up to $500.

Class 3 misdemeanor

Any property stolen between the value of $50 and $300 shall be considered a Class 3 misdemeanor. The offender shall face imprisonment of up to 6 months and a fine of up to $750.

Class 2 misdemeanor

Any property stolen between the value of $300 and $750 shall be considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. The offender shall face imprisonment of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $1000.

Class 1 misdemeanor

Any property stolen between the value of $750 and $2000 shall be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. The offender shall face imprisonment of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $5000.

Please note : Theft crimes that involve items valued at $2000 or more are charged as felonies. The fines and imprisonment increase considering the value of the items stolen. Also, crimes of theft are considered ‘crimes of moral turpitude’, meaning even theft of low value can have grave consequences. Crimes of theft can also have the following consequences:

  1. Deportation for non-citizens, 
  2. Loss of professional licenses and affiliations, and 
  3. May also have to be reported to employers and even on job applications.


Please note that in Virginia, theft is considered to be the same as larceny. Let us take a look at the charges for such an offense.

Petit theft/larceny

Under Virginia law, petit larceny is regarded as a misdemeanor criminal act of an individual who confiscated or seized property  belonging to another individual and did so with the intention of not returning the property and its value of $1000 or less. Petit theft or larceny is considered a misdemeanor with a punishment of 12 months of imprisonment, restitution to the victim, a fine of up to $2500, and probation.

Grand theft/larceny

Grand theft/larceny is a felony criminal act committed by an individual who confiscates or seizes someone else’s property with no intention of returning it and the value of the property being above $1000. Grand theft or larceny under Virginia law can be charged with a punishment of about 20 years of prison time, restitution to the victim, a fine of up to $2500, and probation.

Theft/larceny with the intention of selling the stolen property

Theft/larceny with the intention of selling off the property is a Class U felony and attracts imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $2500.

Top defenses for the offense of theft

There are different types of thefts committed, and thus, each case is different and will need a distinct legal strategy to fight against prosecution. Mentioned below are some defenses a knowledgeable lawyer may use in presenting their case.

Lack of intent

In every theft case thus filed, the prosecution has to show that the defendant intended to permanently deprive an individual of his/her property. The charges against the accused will be dismissed if his/her lawyer proves that such an intention did not exist in the first place.


At times, juveniles, vulnerable members of society, or anyone else is forced to commit a crime like theft because another individual threatens them or any of their family members, declaring they will harm them or their loved ones if they do not cooperate. This can be used as a defense in court.

Failure to acknowledge the item was in one’s custody

At times, an individual can make an honest mistake. Any commodity or item may fall into one’s purse at any store, or one may even forget to return an object they borrowed. If one was not aware they had the article, then they did not possess the interior to steal it; without intention, such an act will not be considered theft.

Rightful ownership of the property/item

If an individual is accused of stealing someone’s property but can furnish evidence that such an item belongs to them or that they are the rightful owner of such a property, it can be a persuasive defense. Say, for instance, if a seller sold a motorbike to another person and then accused the buyer of stealing it when he/she took delivery of it, then one could present a bill of sale or the transferred title as proof of ownership.

Illegal search and seizure conducted by police officials

The Fourth Amendment protects the citizens of the US from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement. Thus, a police official cannot simply obtain a warrant to search one’s home or belongings without having probable cause to do so. Generally, this means an officer has to show that they have a reason to assume that any crime is committed before the judge grants him (the police official) a search warrant. In the event that the police official did not follow the proper procedure, the entire case will/may/can be dismissed. Or if they obtain any evidence in an illegal manner, then such evidence will be excluded or the entire case could be dismissed.


What is larceny

Larceny is at times referred to as common theft, which is taking off somebody else’s property without using force. The Model Penal Code and several provisions of various US states place offenses like larceny and a few other property crimes under the general category of theft crimes. Nonetheless, there are some states that still have the traditional common law that distinguishes larceny from other similar property crimes like that of embezzlement or robbery.

Larceny : origination

The term ‘larceny’ has been popular since the 1400s. This term originated from the Anglo-French word “laricen”. The meaning of the term “laricen” is theft of personal property.

Examples of larceny

Example 1

Julie walks into a store, picks up an expensive perfume, smartly hides it in her bag, and leaves without paying the price for it. If caught, she could be charged with committing larceny.

Example 2

A person named John visits a local jewelry store, secretly puts a gold chain into his pocket, and leaves the shop. If caught, he could be charged with committing larceny.

Example 3

An individual, say, Jimmy, enters a library, slips away a rare edition book into his backpack, and walks out of the library without issuing the book in his name or paying for it. When caught, he will be charged with committing larceny.

Example 4

A shopper, say  a person named Kevin, enters a mall, goes to an electronic gadget, switches the tag of a high-end electronic gadget with a low-priced item, and purchases it at a reduced cost.

Example 5

Larry entered a clothing store, and when no one was paying attention, he stuffed a handful of designer garments into his bag and escaped. When caught, he will be charged with the offense of committing larceny.

Example 6

A woman named Lalita enters a grocery store, opens a packet of expensive gourmet chocolates, consumes some of them, and then puts the opened package back on the shelf. When caught, she will be charged with larceny.

Example 7

A person named Madison entered an electronic store, removed a laptop that was on display, and ran away without the intention of returning it. When caught, he will be charged with committing the offense of larceny.

Example 8

Mark visits an antique shop, distracts the owner, goes on slipping a valuable antique flower pot into his bag, and escapes the place. When caught, he will be punished for committing larceny.

Example 9

Rob visits a high end cosmetic store, takes away a lot of expensive skin care products, and comes out without paying for any of them. When caught, he will be charged with committing larceny.

Elements of larceny

To ensure larceny was committed and for further conviction of the accused, the following elements have to be proven:

  1. An unlawful taking and carrying away;
  2. Of someone else’s property;
  3. Without obtaining prior consent from the owner;
  4. With the intention of permanently restraining the actual owner from owning the property.

Let us take a look at each of these elements in brief.

Unlawful taking

When we talk about the elements of larceny, you might have wondered what is meant by unlawful taking of another’s property. Well, it means that the taking is not lawful or legitimate, thus being unlawful or illegitimate. One must note that the removal or appropriation of property for legitimate purposes won’t be counted as larceny. Say, for instance, a bank took repossession of a car because the owner was unable to pay the installments, then such an act will be considered a lawful basis for its action. Here, the bank did not commit larceny. In contrast, the taking would have been considered unlawful if a stranger broke into a car from the restaurant parking lot and drove away with it.

Please note that some states also require the taker to carry the property away for it to be considered stolen property. The action of carrying away can be different in different cases. When it comes to immovable property, the action of carrying away can be satisfied if the perpetrator has taken control of the property and removed its use and enjoyment from the owner.

Someone else’s property

To commit the offense of larceny, the suspect has to take property that belongs to someone else. If the property belongs to the individual taking it, then the act won’t fall under the offense of larceny. Plus, even when another individual possesses your property, you can take it back and not commit larceny. For instance, one’s neighbor borrowed a lawn mower from his owner and had forgotten to return it; now, if the owner sees the lawnmower in the driveway and takes it, the owner has not committed larceny. In such circumstances, the law focuses on who has a better legal claim to the property.

Further, individuals who co-own property also commit larceny if they deprive any co-owners of their right to access the property. For instance, three friends jointly buy a boat. Now, one of the friends moves away and takes up the boat, doing so without obtaining the consent of the other two friends. Here, the two boatless friends can claim that the one who took off with the boat took the property of another person; thus, a claim for larceny could be made.

Without obtaining prior consent from the owner

Even if an individual intends to steal a piece of property, no offense of larceny would be considered to have occurred if the owner gave his/her consent to the transfer of ownership of that property. However, it may still be an offense if the owner transfers the property due to another person’s deceit or fraud. This kind of ‘larceny by trick’ may or may not be considered to be an offense or even addressed by other property crimes.

The taker’s intent

The last element of larceny requires that the taker take the property to permanently deprive the owner of possessing, using and enjoying the property. Simply put, if an individual who took the property has an intention to return it back to the owner, such an act won’t be considered to be larceny.

Further, please note, larceny is a specific intent crime, meaning that if that person takes the property, he/she has to have the specific intention of keeping the property in an unjust manner; thus, if a person has reasonable reasons to believe that he/she owns the property they are taking, they would not have the specific intent required for larceny. An act where an individual takes somebody else’s property as a mistake or accident does not constitute the offense of larceny.

One larceny or many

One of the most common questions that arises while discussing larceny prosecutions is whether or not one larceny or several have occurred. Usually, several items stolen from a single store or from a single owner at the same time will be constituted as a single larceny; however, some states allow prosecutors to charge such an occurrence as multiple larcenies.

Further, courts often look at the timing and locations of larcenies to ascertain whether they formed a part of a single larceny or multiple. If the act is a part of a single activity, then no larceny has occurred; however, multiple larcenies could be charged if there were multiple activities.

The determination of the number of larcenies can affect the number and severity with which the individual will be punished for committing larceny. For instance, if he/she takes multiple things from a single shop, then it could be said to be a single form of larceny; however, the amount of the items the person took from the store could push the severity of the crime into a felony larceny offense. Whereas, if the multiple takings each formed a single occurrence of larceny, the accused may have to face multiple lesser misdemeanor counts. Such a determination could have a huge effect on the penalties the defendant receives.

Actus reus and mens rea under larceny

Types of larceny

Larceny can take many forms. Every state has its own legislation and variations for the offense of larceny. Which is why,if charged with the offense of larceny, it is advisable to consult a local criminal defense lawyer to understand the larceny charge cases and proceed further. The following are some types of larceny:

Petit larceny

Petty larceny, also referred to as petty theft, is defined as the theft of someone’s personal property that has quite a low value. It is noteworthy that every state has its own provision for determining the value and punishments for thefts. Petit larceny usually takes place in retail stores in the act of shoplifting, as a shoplifter will often steal everyday items that are cheap or things that are of relatively low value.

Grand larceny

Grand larceny is oftentimes used to describe theft when the property or item stolen is of relatively high value. Each and every state in the US has set thresholds to determine what value of property could upgrade the charges to a felony. One simple instance of grand larceny could be the theft of any motor vehicle.


Embezzlement, a type of larceny, could be defined as an act that involves the theft or misappropriation of funds or property that is entrusted to the offender or belongs to the offender’s employer. For more details on embezzlement as a property crime, click here.

Penalties for larceny

In most of the states in the US, punishment for larceny is decided by the nature of the property thus stolen. The punishment is oftentimes inferred, considering the monetary value of the property. Say, for instance, if a defendant goes to an electronic shop and steals a big TV screen whose worth is around $5000, he/she will be subjected to a more stringent punishment than a defendant who steals a hair dryer worth $30. Also, each state has its own provisions as to whether they categorize larceny as a felony or a misdemeanor. If an individual is charged with such an offense, he/she will need to check the penal code and statutes of that particular state to determine what punishment would be levied upon him/her. he/she may also consult an attorney who is familiar with the laws of that jurisdiction to save himself from conviction. Now let us take a look at the state-wise perspective on larceny.

Penalties for larceny : a state-wise perspective

North Carolina

In North Carolina, larceny of property is the act of receiving stolen goods or possessing stolen goods. If the value of the goods stolen is $1000 or exceeds it, then such an offense is regarded as a Class H felony. Further, if the value of the goods stolen is $1000 or less, the act is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. There are certain larceny offenses in the state of North Carolina that are felonies, irrespective of the value of the property stolen. They include:

  1. Larceny from the person,
  2. Larceny pursuant to a burglary or breaking and entering crime,
  3. Larceny of an explosive or incendiary device
  4. Larceny of a firearm,
  5. Larceny of any record or paper of the North Carolina State Archives,
  6. Larceny where the offender has four prior convictions in their criminal record.

New York

Under the New York Penal Code, there are multiple ways in which the offense of larceny could be committed. The Code states that larceny takes place when an individual—with the intention to deprive another individual of his/her property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person—wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner in the following ways:

  1. Common law larceny by trespassory taking,
  2. Common law larceny by trick,
  3. Embezzlement,
  4. Obtaining property on/by false pretenses,
  5. Acquiring someone else’s lost property,
  6. False promises,
  7. Issuance of a bad check,
  8. Extortion.

Please note : Some of these methods are explicitly mentioned in the statute, while others are left to common law definitions. 

Further, the state of New York also has provisions for crimes where the penalty increases as the property’s value increases, including:

  1. Petit larceny.
  2. Grand larceny in the fourth degree (value over $1,000, credit or debit cards, other specific items regardless of value).
  3. Grand larceny in the third degree (value over $3,000 or an ATM or its contents).
  4. Grand larceny in the second degree (value over $50,000 or certain property obtained by extortion or involving the use of a public servant and their duties).
  5. Aggravated grand larceny of an ATM (with prior conviction of grand larceny of third degree in the previous five years).
  6. Grand larceny in the first degree (value over $1 million).


In Massachusetts, larceny is said to be the act of wrongfully taking, carrying away, or stealing somebody else’s property with the intention of permanently depriving the individual/owner from using it or possessing it. In Massachusetts, larceny is divided into the following categories, and each category attracts a different set of penalties.

Petit larceny

In Massachusetts, petit larceny is considered a misdemeanor and the punishment for the same is as follows:

  1. Serving up to one year of jail time,
  2. Paying a fine of up to $300,
  3. Restitution to the victim,
  4. Probation.

Grand larceny

In Massachusetts, grand larceny attracts the following punishment:

  1. Serving jail time of up to 5 years in state prison,
  2. Paying a fine of up to $25,000.
  3. Restitution to the victim,
  4. Probation.

Please note : If the value of the stolen property is above $50,000, then the penalties can be severe. Alongside the aforementioned penalties, the defendant may also be mandated to pay triple the amount of damages thus caused to the victim, meaning they will have to pay three times the value of the property thus stolen.


If the sum of the value of the property stolen is $12,000 or more, such an act will be counted as felony larceny in Massachusetts. For this, the individual can be charged with an imprisonment of up to 5 years in a Massachusetts state incarceration facility. The individual could also face a financial penalty in the form of a fine that could go as high as $25,000. Moreover, individuals charged with either a felony larceny charge or a misdemeanor larceny charge may face even more severe penalties if they already have a criminal record or if they were found to be committing other crimes at the time of the larceny act.

For instance, if a person was driving a stolen car to break into someone’s house to eventually rob it, this would most likely be regarded as more than one crime being committed at once. So, considering this, if the person ended up stealing minor items from that house and the values of all these items did not exceed $1,200, it is true that they may only catch a misdemeanor larceny charge, but the other crimes that were committed will escalate the situation and make the penalties much more severe.

Please note : Each state legislature decides the amount that divides a grand larceny (or felony theft) from a petty larceny (or misdemeanor theft). Further, these values may keep changing over time.

Top defenses for larceny

If a person is charged with the offense of larceny in Massachusetts, there are several defenses his/her attorney can use to avoid a conviction. Some of the most common defenses are as follows:


If the victim willingly gave permission to take away the property, or if the individual accused of committing larceny has valid reasons to believe that they had been permitted to take the property, the attorney can argue that no larceny was committed.

Lack of intent

In order to be convicted of the offense of larceny, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant had the intention of permanently depriving the victim (owner) of his/her property by taking it away. If the accused took the property mistakenly or with the intention of returning it, one might be able to argue that the necessary intent to commit larceny was absent.

Being present

If an individual who was simply present at the place of larceny took place and was accused of committing larceny or participating in the act even then, his/her attorney can argue that the accused was simply there when the crime occurred and has no role in the activity.

Mistaken identity

If one has any doubt about whether the accused has actually committed the larceny, his/her attorney may make a valid argument that he/she was a mistakenly identified person.


What is extortion

Extortion is defined as the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or intimidation to gain money or property from a single person or an entity. Such an offense generally refers to threatening the victim, his/her person/beloved or property, or their family members or friends.

Understanding extortion in the United States

In the United States, the Hobbs Act of 1956 forbids actual or attempted robbery or extortion that impacts interstate or foreign commerce.

Cases that involve public corruption and commercial disputes are governed in accordance with the provisions of the Hobbs Act. Further, in order to prove that there was a violation of any of the provisions of the Act, the following points must be proved:

  1. Did the defendant make an attempt to induce or actually induce the victim to give up his/her property or the rights associated with the property?
  2. Did the defendant try or attempt to use the victim’s reasonable fear of physical injury or economic harm to obtain the consent of the victim to give up his/her property?
  3. Did the defendant’s conduct actually or potentially obstruct or affect interstate or foreign commerce in any way?
  4. Was the defendant’s actual or threatened use of force or violence wrongful in any manner?

The ever-growing threat of extortion in the US

Generally, we all believe extraction takes place only in smoky back rooms or among shady mobster characters; it can also occur in the modern digital world. Cyber extortion is a new method for criminals to find victims and ensnare them via their keyboards or smartphones.

Further, some cybercriminals use a tool known as ‘ransomware’ to encrypt any important files or documents, thus ensuring the files are unreadable for the victim, and he/she then pays ransom to retrieve them. Cybercriminals do not need a specific business or individual to target for such traps, but these criminals usually focus on larger-scale targets like corporations with large amounts of data and deeper pockets.

Interesting fact : Robbery is considered to be the most common form of extortion.

Extortion : definition and overview

Legal definition

The legal definition of extortion is the use of force, or threat of force, to obtain money or another item of value from another person. Additionally, many jurisdictions classify extortion as a “crime against property or a theft-related offense, but the threat of harm to a person is an essential element of the offense. This could consist of physical harm, financial harm, destruction of property, or abuse of official power.

Further, California’s extortion statute defines the offense based on two elements, namely: 

  1. the alleged perpetrator’s objective, and 
  2. the means used offer a good example of extortion’s legal definition. 

The statute restrains a person:  

  1. from obtaining someone else’s property or “an official act of a public officer;”  
  2. by wrongfully using force against the person, instilling fear of harm in the person, or acting “under color of official right.”

Most of the states in US define the elements of extortion as obtaining property or money by using any sort of- 

  1. Force, 
  2. Threat, 
  3. Violence, 
  4. Property damage, 
  5. Harm to reputation, or
  6. Unfavorable government action. 

Also, extortion is oftentimes charged as a felony criminal offense in most of the US states. Generally, states will ascertain the severity of the charges based upon the amount of money or value of the property extorted from the victim. The lower the value of the property stolen, the less severe the charges, like misdemeanor charges in some cases.

One must note that blackmail is also a form of extortion where there is a threat to expose an individual’s embarrassing or damaging information to family, friends, or the public. Inherent in this common form of extortion is the threat to disclose the details of someone’s personal life to the public unless the individual is compensated with some form of payment. Further, blackmail can occur against someone who is a public official or a private citizen. Such crimes are typically white-collar crimes.

Another instance of an extortion case would be when a witness in a civil case contacts the attorney for one of the litigants and demands that he be paid some money to give his testimony in court. The witness claims his memory is unreliable, but he can remember anything provided he is given $1000. Now, his offer to provide false testimony in court will have  a huge impact on the property interest that the litigant has in the outcome of the lawsuit. Further, such a communication (the one involving asking for money, i.e., extortion) can occur over a phone call, via mail, messages, emails or other computer or wireless communications. If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be regarded as a federal crime charged pursuant to federal law.

Examples of extortion

Example 1

Mr. Landlord asks Ms. Tenant to pay additional rent or he will ask her to vacate the property, and also threatens to reveal some personal information about her. When caught, Mr. Landlord will be held guilty of committing extortion.

Example 2

Mr. Cybercriminal successfully hacks into a company’s confidential financial data and claims ransom in cryptocurrency to stop him from releasing the sensitive data. Here, when caught, he will be held guilty of extortion.  

Example 3

A woman, say Ms. Angeldevil, threatens to expose the sensitive personal information of a politician unless the politician makes a significant donation to a specific charity of Ms. Angeldevil’s choice. If and when caught, she will be held guilty of committing the offense of extortion.

Example 4

Mr. Blackmailer makes a threat to expose Mr. Victim’s sensitive medical records and information that he obtained from a healthcare facility by hacking into their computers unless Mr. Victim pays a substantial amount of money. When caught, Mr. Blackmailer will be charged with committing extortion.

Example 5

A vendor at a local market tries to threaten to destroy a competitor’s shop unless the shopkeeper pays a regular fee for ‘protection’.

Example 6

Mr. Walle Wallace, a contractor who is working on a construction site, threatens to sabotage the site by releasing false safety violations unless the owner of that property pays him extra money. Mr. Walle Wallace could be held guilty of committing extortion.   

Example 7

Mr. Hackers makes an attempt to post compromising photos of Mr. Victim, who is Vice President of a top company in the USA. Mr. Hackers claims that unless a substantial amount of money is transferred to a bank account by Mr. Victim, he will post the photos online. When caught, Mr. Hackers will be held liable for committing extortion.

Example 8

A disgruntled employee named Mr. Disappointed threatens to disclose his company’s sensitive data along with some strategic planning secrets unless he has been compensated with a hefty sum by the employer. Here, Mr. Disappointed can be charged with committing extortion.

Cyber attack

WannaCry Ransomware

A major incident of cyber extortion came forward in May 2017, wherein a cyberattack was known to infect 10,000s of computers in about 100 nations with ransomware dubbed WannaCry. This attack disrupted operations at several organizations, including automobile production facilities, medical facilities, and educational institutes. The most affected nations across the globe by this attack were:

  1. Russia,
  2. Taiwan, and
  3. United Kingdom.

In this scam, cyber extortionists made use of a hacking tool to trick thousands of users into opening malware attachments in emails that looked like they were legitimate files. Once this self-propagating malware or ‘worm’ was inside the network, it silently infected other vulnerable computers.

As per Symantec, WannaCry was much more terrifying than other common ransomware as “its ability to spread itself across an organization’s network by exploiting critical vulnerabilities in Windows computers, which were patched by Microsoft in Windows 2017”. 

Further, even the researchers stated that the hackers targeted Windows user’s computers that had either not installed the Microsoft security patch or had older machines running software no longer supported by Microsoft. The hackers (or the extortionists) demanded around $300-$600 of Bitcoin for each infected device. 

Colonial Oil Pipeline ransomware

Another instance of extortion is the Colonial Oil Pipeline ransomware case. Colonial Oil Pipeline is one of the largest petroleum pipelines in the US. In 2021, the pipeline fell prey to a cyberattack involving ransomware, which resulted in the company shutting down the pipeline completely. 

It was later discovered that a hacker group named Darkside was the reason behind the attack, and they executed it to earn some money. The pipeline company paid $4.4 million in Bitcoin to stop the attack, which was about 75 bitcoins at the time. From these 75 Bitcoins, the Department of Justice has been able to recover 64 of them.

Types of extortion


There are several types of extortion. One form of extortion commonly known as ‘protection’ includes a promise to refrain from any harmful action, which by necessity implies a threat of harm, in exchange for ongoing payments.


Further, extortion that involves using an individual’s information rather than force in order to coerce him/her to pay a particular sum of money is regarded as ‘blackmail’ in some jurisdictions in the US. In other words, blackmail is said to be a type of extortion, wherein the offender threatens to expose any piece of information that could expose the victim’s damaging information instead of causing harm physically. In recent times, considering the rapid growth and development in the field of technology, the offense of extortion has also increased on a huge scale.


Also, large-scale extortion, like extortion performed by or on behalf of an organization, may be prosecuted as ‘racketeering’ under statutes like the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).


Further, on a smaller scale, cyber extortion involves using malicious software (commonly known as malware or ransomware), where the criminal encrypts an individual’s computer files, making them unusable until a ransom, say, in Bitcoin, is paid.

Please note : Larger cyber extortion attempts are almost global in scale and have been launched simultaneously in multiple countries.

Is extortion different from other crimes

How is extortion different from racketeering

Racketerring is quite a broad category of actions related to organized crime, often including extortion. Prosecutions under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, might include claims of extortion against public officials to obtain favorable actions or hinder investigations. Further, the prosecutions might also include alleged ‘protection rackets’ through which a criminal enterprise asks for ‘protection money’ from residents or businesses in an area, with the understanding that without the payments, the harm would come from the very people offering protection.

How is extortion different from bribery

At times, extortion may involve an attempt to influence public officials, which is oftentimes the main object of bribery. The difference between extortion and bribery is in the terms used. On one hand, bribery is regarded as the payment of money or something else that has quite a value to a public official in exchange for some sort of action, whereas on the other hand, extortion involves threats.

How is extortion different from robbery and other theft crimes

Extortion is oftentimes regarded as a property crime, as it may involve the act of wrongfully obtaining property from another person or any property that belongs to another person. Even robbery, as an offense, involves using threat or force to obtain ownership of a property from someone. The difference between them is the nature of the threat. On one hand, robbery requires immediacy, wherein an individual threatens imminent harm in order to receive some money or property in that very instance. It is pertinent to note that the threat does not have to be verbal; simply put, it could involve actions that are little more than displaying weapons in a threatening manner.

While a robber generally does not give a victim the chance to weigh his options, an extortionist generally relies on the fact that the victim makes a conscious decision to cooperate in order to avoid any harm in the future. Extortion requires- 

  1. Communication of a threat, 
  2. The threat could be made verbally or in writing, and
  3. The threat should be made with a clear connection between the threat and a demand.

How is the crime of extortion generally proved

As per the Department of Justice, the Hobbs Act, which majorly deals with interstate and foreign commerce, in order to prove extortion, four questions must be answered. The questions are as follows:

  1. Did the defendant force or make an attempt to force the victim into giving up his property or property rights?
  2. Did the defendant attempt or make an attempt to use the victim’s reasonable fear of physical injury or economic harm in order to coerce the victim’s consent to give up property?
  3. Did the defendant’s conduct actually or potentially obstruct, delay, or affect interstate or foreign commerce in any (realistic) way or degree?
  4. Was the defendant’s actual or threatened use of force, violence, or fear wrongful?

How are extortion charges filed against the offender

One of the best methods to file extortion charges against someone is to report the case to the local law enforcement department, usually the police department in your area. Providing any proof of the extortion activity, like:

  1. Documents,
  2. Vidoes,
  3. Text messages, etc.

will help the case as one files the police report or lodges a complaint against the offender.

Penalties for extortion

Usually, all those people charged with extortion may face some severe penalties, including:

  1. Heavy fines,
  2. Prison sentence,
  3. Probation or parole, and
  4. Restitution for the victims.

Simple extortion

However, for a simple kind of extortion, the penalty would be around 3 years of imprisonment or a fine, at times, both.

Involvement of fear

When there is any sort of injury or fear involved in the activity of extortion, the punishment ranges from 5 years of imprisonment, which could extend to 14 years of imprisonment or a fine, and at times, both.

Involvement of fear or death

When there is any sort of fear of death or of grievous hurt, then the punishment shall be not less than 7 years or a fine, or, at times, both.

By threat of accusation

When extortion is committed by threat of accusation for a crime that can be penalized with death or imprisonment for life, then the punishment shall be imprisonment for up to 10 years or imprisonment for life. 

Unnatural offense

Moreover, when the accusation is of an unnatural offense, the penalty provided is more severe.

Let us take a look at the state-wise penalties for committing extortion.

Penalties for extortion : a state-wise perspective


Extortion, often referred to as ‘blackmail’, is a serious white collar crime, and is often charged at the federal level. A person charged with bribery, either at a public service or by another individual, can face dire consequences. This is the same for the individual who actually takes a bribe. Further, any individual, when held guilty of these charges, may face:

  1. Imprisonment,
  2. Parole,
  3. Huge amount of fines,
  4. Probation,
  5. And other sanctions.

Those individuals who are convicted of committing extortion in Kansas or Missouri may face felony charges, meaning the penalties are more severe than those of a misdemeanor offense. Even though the penalties vary from state to state, the punishment includes fines of up to $10,000, or it may even exceed them. Furthermore, the individual could also face imprisonment for upto 15 years or, at times, more.


In Vermont, under 13 V.S.A. § 1701, any individual who maliciously attempts to threaten or threaten another individual of a crime or offense,or with an injury to his or her loved ones or property, with an intention to extort money or gain some pecuniary advantage, or with the intent to force the individual to do something against his/her will, will be held guilty of committing extortion. The punishment for the same shall be imprisonment of not more than 3 years or a fine that does not exceed $500.00. At times, the individual may be charged with imprisonment and fines, both. (Amended 1971, No. 199 (Adj. Sess.), § 15; 1973, No. 109, § 6; 1981, No. 223 (Adj. Sess.), § 23.)


Generally, in most of the cases, extortion is a felony offense, meaning, the offender will face extensive fines and a minimum of a year of jail time, when convicted. The fine could be as huge as $10,000 for each conviction. One might also have to pay restitution to the victim and his/her family members. Further, the offender may face imprisonment of up to 15 years, at times, more considering the details and ccircumstancessinwhich the crime took place. Furthermore, in some cases, probation could be an option.


Under Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1483, any individual who extorts or makes an attempt to extort any money or property from another individual under situations that do not account to robbery, by force or threat (discussed in Section 1482), when convicted, shall be held guilty of felony. A conviction for extortion attracts imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for a term not exceeding 5 years. A conviction for attempted extortion attracts jail time in the State Penitentiary for a term not exceeding 2 years.

New Hampshire

Under Section 637:5 (theft by extortion), an individual will be held guilty of theft if he/she obtains or exercises control over the property that belongs to another individual by extortion and with an objective to deprive him of the property there. Further, extortion occurs when an individual makes an attempt to threaten to:

  1. Cause bodily harm in the near future to the person threatened or to any other individual or to property at any moment;
  2. Subjects the person to threat or any of his/her near and dear ones to physical confinement or restraint;
  3. Engages in other conduct continuing a crime;
  4. Accuse any individual of a wrong or expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule; inter alia

Under NH Rev Stat § 637:11 (2014), the penalties for extortion are as follows:

Class A felony

Theft will be regarded as a Class A felony in the following circumstances:

  1. The amount of money or the property or services exceeds $1500.
  2.  The property that was stolen is a firearm.
  3. The offender is armed with a deadly weapon while committing the theft, except that the deadly weapon is a firearm, he will be held guilty and charged under  RSA 651:2, II-g.

Such charges may attract a penalty of imprisonment of up to 15 years or a fine of up to $4000.

Class B felony

If the accused has stolen property more than $1000, but not more than $1500, it will be regarded as a Class B felony. Such charges may attract a penalty of up to 7 years of imprisonment and a fine that does not go beyond $4000.


An accused may face charges of Class A misdemeanor for stealing money or property whose value is less than $1000. Such an act is punishable with a year of imprisonment or a fine up to $2000.

Please note : The charges could go up for numerous reasons and the accused may also face civil penalties. Further, the court may also order restitution to the victims. Apart from this, if not additional fines and penalties, the accused may have to pay a huge sum of money to the victim as compensation.

Top defenses for extortion

The top defenses a lawyer could use to defend his client are as follows:

  1. Lack of evidence,
  2. Evidence that claims that the accused did not intimate or coerce the victim in order to obtain goods or money from another individual (the victim),
  3. Proving that the so-called coercion was actually legitimate business,
  4. Showing that the other individual involved has some kind of ulterior motive in implicating you for extortion.

Food for thought : can a company be held guilty of extortion from customers

Extortion is usually said to be a crime that is typically enacted by individuals; these individuals could be private citizens or public officials; however, there are some statutes where a company could be held guilty for committing the offense of extortion. Having said that, it would be an individual in the company that would be held guilty for the offense and the offender would be held guilty of committing such a wrong instead of the whole company. However, the company may have to pay fines as a penalty.


What is embezzlement

Embezzlement is usually defined as unlawfully taking the property of another individual, especially when the indicia entrusted them with the care of that property. It is very similar to theft and larceny; however, one of the major differences here is that embezzlement involves a betrayal of trust or duty. Here, the thieves or the offenders do not need to break into homes, threaten individuals at gunpoint, or even pick a single pocket. The offenders committing the crime, known as embezzlers, make use of their relationships and positions of trust to commit such a wrong for serving their own personal motives or for selfish gains.

Further, embezzlement can take place in a variety of situations, yet, it is most commonly perpetrated by financial advisers or by other individuals who were entrusted to be in charge of the money of another individual.  As per the 2012 Marquet Report on Embezzlement, the crime of embezzlement is on the rise in the United States and increased more than 11 percent between 2011 and 2012, with an average loss of $1.4 million for major embezzlement schemes.

Examples of embezzlement

Embezzlement of property of the government

Mr. Doe is an accountant working in a federal office that disburses federal money to healthcare establishments. Mr. Doe carefully skims some amount and diverts it into his bank accounts, doctoring the books to conceal his work. When found guilty, Mr. Doe can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 641 because he embezzled public funds.

Embezzlement of parts of military weapons whose cost is borne by the government 

Ms. Athena worked for a company that manufactured weapon parts for government contracts. Her job was to manage inventories of finished parts to be forwarded to other factories to be converted or used as parts of military weapons.

Thinking of making a little extra income, she starts to divert some of the inventory and store it in her closet and then decides to sell it on the black market. Here, when found guilty, Ms. Athena will be charged under 18 U.S.C. 641 as even though she worked for a private company, the commodities she held up were made for the government and paid for using  funds reimbursed by the government.

Embezzlement of coupons 

Mr. Joseph, an employee working for a HUD agency in his local community, has the task of connecting low-income families with affordable housing. He then steals some coupons and requests that his friend, Ms. Jennifer, store them for sale later, promising him a cut from the profits. Jennifer agrees to such an agreement.

In such circumstances, Mr. Joseph and Ms. Jennifer, if caught, will be held guilty and sentenced under 18 U.S.C. 641—Mr. Joseph for embezzling the vouchers and Ms. Jennifer, for concealing them in spite of knowing they were stolen.

Some real life examples of embezzlement in the United States

Delta Sigma Theta

In the year 2021, the former executive director of a well-known sorority named Delta Sigma Theta, pleaded guilty to committing the crime of embezzlement. Here, Jeanine Henderson Arnett and her husband, Diallo Arnett, made use of credit cards for personal purchases. Further, they also committed wire fraud by wiring the charity’s money directly into their bank account.

Within a span of two years, the couple had misappropriated around $228,000. They were held guilty and were mandated to forfeit $228,000 and to pay another $228,000 in restitution. Moreover, Jeanine Arnett was sentenced to serving sixteen months of jail time, and her husband was sentenced to serving over twelve months behind bars.

Lawyer embezzled funds from a trust

In Michigan, an attorney named Anthony Semaan pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from a trust that belonged to his former client, who was then deceased. The attorney  had drafted this trust for his client in 2011. After the client’s demise, half of the funds were pledged to the Michigan Humane Society. Instead, he placed $262,732 into his office escrow account and never told the Humane Society about the money they had been gifted.

In context to this case, Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, stated- “Older individuals who use professionals for estate planning should be able to rely on those professionals to follow the law and make sure the money is distributed in accordance with their wishes.”

Embezzlement : defined

A simple and short definition of the white collar crime of embezzlement is, “Theft or misappropriation of assets (money or property) by a person in a position of trust or responsibility for those assets

Also, every state has its own definition of embezzlement and where it fits in that state’s theft crime laws. For instance, under the statute of Rhode Island, embezzlement comes under larceny. However, the general idea of the definitions is as follows:

Position of trust

First, it defines the kinds of people who are entrusted with a position of trust. So, it could, inter alia, include the following individuals:

  1. An official at a financial institution;
  2. An officer, an agent, a clerk, or a servant to whom such an amount or property is entrusted;
  3. Any individual acting under any of these roles: 
  1. Executor, 
  2. Administrator,
  3. Conservator,
  4. Guardian,
  5. Custodian, or
  6. Trustee.

How the trust is bestowed

Then, the definitions generally have an explanation on how such a trust is bestowed.  It could be any of the following:

  1. By virtue of their employment,
  2. For a specific objective,
  3. By being assigned on the order of a court, or through a legal will or another legal document, or
  4. For they have the duty to collect or receive money or property on behalf of some  person.  

What could be taken

Then it defines what can be taken, like:

  1. Money or capital,
  2. Personal property or belongings like-
  1. Company’s computer,
  2. Company’s laptop, or
  3. Company’s fleet vehicle.
  4. Real property like-
  1. Building, or
  2. Tract of land, etc.

How could the thing be taken

And ultimately, it defines how the money or property is taken and it could be in any of the following manners:

  1. Intentionally,
  2. By fraudulently converting it to one’s own use, selling the property, or giving it away,
  3. By secreting it away (hiding it) on a permanent basis.

Please note, the methods and techniques used to embezzle can be surprisingly creative and can also include employee theft, like payroll checks for fabricated employees and invoices to fake sellers.

Elements of embezzlement

For embezzlement to be committed, the following factors must be present:

Financial/fiduciary relationship

Firstly, there has to be a financial relationship between the victim and the perpetrator; this relationship is commonly known as a fiduciary relationship. This means, one party was sure of the other party’s ability to take care of and handle their money, property or anything else that had financial value.

Common fiduciary relationships that lead to embezzlement comprise the following:

  1. Bankers and clients,
  2. Financial advisors,
  3. Stock brokers and clients, and
  4. Employees provide financial services to other companies.

It must be noted that the mere handling of money is usually not sufficient to give rise to a fiduciary relationship. Say, for instance, that a cashier at a store does not have a fiduciary  relationship with the customers whose money he/she collects as a payment for the goods they bought; however, a retirement advisor who is charged with managing the retirement funds for an old, elderly couple will obviously have a fiduciary relationship with his/her clients.

Property must be obtained through financial relationship

Secondly, the perpetrator or the offender has to truly obtain the property of another person through the fiduciary relationship (discussed above) and that the property must then be transferred to self or a third party. It is not enough that the offender has had access to the property, for it could be a part of his job; so, he/she should have access to convert the property in his/her name or for his/her benefit.


Stock broker

A simple example could be when a stock broker transferred a client’s stock in his/her name, or the broker sold the shares and kept the profit to himself/herself.


Another example could be when an employee is blamed for not paying the company’s bills even when a certain sum of money was allotted to do so, instead, he/she using the money for his personal expenses.

Intentional act

Finally, the act of the offender or the perpetrator has to be intentional (thus, it has to be done with a fraudulent intent). So, if a financial advisor accidentally transfers the property of a client or is under the impression that the client has entrusted him with the responsibility to undertake an action that the client has actually not approved of explicitly, then such an act will most likely not constitute as embezzlement. Similarly, say a person claims and reasonably believes that the property has been given to him, then he/she can use this as a defense to embezzlement charges, oftentimes.

Who can commit embezzlement

In 2020, the ACFE published the Report to the Nations: 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. Through this report, it analyzed more than 2,500 cases of fraud in the workplace to understand perpetrators and behavioral red flags. This is what they found out:

  1. More than 70% emebezzelrs are men.
  2. More than half of the embezzelrrs belonged between the age of 31 to 45 years.
  3. Most of the emebezzelrs were never changed with any criminal offense before.
  4. Emebezzelrs are most likely to be working in the following areas-
  1. Operations, 
  2. Accounting, 
  3. Sales, or 
  4. Upper management.
  5. The amount of money lost is in relation to the position the offender or the perpetrator holds in the company in which such an incident took place. The median loss caused by embezzling eexceutives was around $600,000; whereas for it criminal managers and lower level employees, the median loss was $150,000 and $60,000, respectively.

Punishment for embezzlement

Even though the punishment for the offense of embezzlement differs from state to state, most of the states in the US adjust the punishment according to the value and type of the property stolen or embezzled. Therefore, if the offender has taken millions of dollars, the person will have to face a more stringent punishment than in a case where the theft or embezzlement is several hundred dollars. Similarly, some states increase the punishment when embezzlement of the property is of particular value to the owner or in cases when the money thus embezzled belongs to a public fund.

Further, since trust is an important aspect of any fiduciary relationship, several states have also ascertained that a certain aggravating factor may apply to an embezzlement charge when the perpetrator occupied a position of public trust, such as a public servant or an employee at a local bank, or when the perpetrator targeted particularly vulnerable populations like the elderly. 

Any person convicted of the offense of embezzlement will most likely face imprisonment and fines and are also required to pay restitution, too. Restitution can be said to be the payment made to the victim to compensate him/her for the loss that he/she incurred. It could be anything from the sum of money property stolen to an amount ascertained by the court in case the property is not subjected to ready valuation.

Offenses related to embezzlement

Title 18, Chapter 31 of the United States Code has other provisions that are related to different types of federal embezzlement like:

Embezzlement of tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes

Under 18 U.S.C. 642, embezzling tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes can be referred to as, “stealing or diverting parchment, paper, or tools that could be used to illegally stamp or print any bill, note, or stamp.”

Theft or bribery

Under 18 U.S.C. 666, theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds are referred to as, “embezzling or stealing from any agency that receives at least $10,000 of federal funds within a year”.

The other crimes related to embezzlement are as follows:

  1. Accounting for public money (18 U.S.C. 643).
  2. Banker who receives a deposit of public money (18 U.S.C. 644).
  3. Custodians who misuse public funds (18 U.S.C. 648).
  4. Theft, embezzlement by a bank officer (18 U.S.C. 656).
  5. Interstate or foreign shipments by carrier (18 U.S.C. 659).
  6. Theft or bribery related to federal funds (18 U.S.C. 656).
  7. Theft or embezzlement related to health care (18 U.S.C. 669).

Penalties for embezzlement

Usually, the punishment and/or penalties vary from state to state and are quite dependant on the total value of the money or the property stolen, usually, it is as follows:

  1. If the total value of the property that is stolen is $1000 or less, it is considered a federal misdemeanor. If the offender is found guilty, he/she could be charged with one year of imprisonment in a federal prison and fine of up to $100,000.
  2. If the total value of the property is above $1000, it is considered to be a felony offense and the maximum penalty if the offender is held guilty is ten years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Penalties for embezzlement : a state wise perspective

Penalties can depend on the provisions of the state and from case to case. Further, the punishments also include forfeiture of assets that are purchased with illegally obtained money, as well as the payment of restitution to the victims for the amount of the property worth. Let us take a look at some of the major states of the United States to get an idea about the penalties for such an offense.

Rhode Island

If an individual is charged with embezzlement in Rhode Island, he/she could be charged with the following punishments:

  1. Fine that is not more than $50,000, or three times the value of the money or property that was embezzled, whichever is greater.
  2. Serving jail time of not more than 20 years.
  3. Both fines and imprisonment.
  4. Further, if the value of the property embezzled is less than $100, the fine shall be not more than $1,000, or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.


In the state of Florida, if a person is convicted for committing embezzlement, the judge can pronounce a sentence as petitie as second degree misdemeanor to a sentence of a first degree felony which can carry a serving imprisonment of up to thirty years and a fine of up to $10,000. At times, he/she could be charged with both (i.e., the prison time and the fine), depending on the value of the property or cash asset stolen.


In Virginia, an offender is sentenced with:

  1. Misdemeanor embezzlement, or 
  2. Felony embezzlement. 

Misdemeanor embezzlement can be said to be embezzlement where the loss amounts do not exceed $200. So, if any individual is charged with and convicted of a misdemeanor embezzlement, the maximum penalty he/she will face is one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500. 

However, if the victim has suffered a loss that exceeds $200, then he/she will be charged with felony embezzlement. Such an offense is regarded as a theft crime and the offender can be said to serve a penalty of up to 20 years of prison time.


If an individual is convicted of embezzlement, the punishment he/she will be sentenced to will vary depending on the value of the property or sum of money that was stolen. The punishment will be as follows:

  1. If the value of the property or money was under $50, then there will be a fine up to $2,500 and jail time of up to one year.
  2. If the value of the property or money was between $50 to $199, then the offender will have to pay a fine up to $5,000 and serve jail time of up to two years.
  3. If the value of the property or money was between $200 to $1,999, then the individual could be fined up to $10,000 and be sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years.
  4. If the value of the property or money was $2,000 or more, then the individual could be fined up to $15,000 and be sentenced to imprisonment of up to seven years.
  5. If the value of the property or money was $500,000 or more, then the individual has committed a first degree felony and could be fined up to $25,000 and be sentenced to imprisonment of up to twenty years.

Must know fact : If an individual is convicted of embezzlement of a certain property or money whose value is $2000 or more, he/she will have a felony on his/her record.

Top legal defenses against embezzlement

The top legal defenses for committing federal crime of embezzlement, prosecutors have to prove several elements of the crime, like:

  1. The client (or the offender) deliberately took or diverted money or property that belonged to the US Government.
  2. The client (or the offender) deliberately or with proper information sold or conveyed the property of the US Government without any authority to do so.
  3. The client (or the offender) deliberately concealed the property that belonged to the US Government and had complete knowledge that it had been embezzled with the intention of gaining profit from it.

The top 4 legal defenses against embezzlement charges are as follows:

Absence of intent

There was an absence of intent to commit such a crime.

Duress or coercion

Duress or coercion can be another defense against embezzlement. Say, for instance, there is an employee coercing another employee to embezzle money or forcing them to quit the job, then such an act can be said to be coercion or duress.


Entrapment is an act that generally takes place when an innocent individual is compelled to do something (a crime) they generally would not have committed. For instance, the government can set up bait assets with an intent to target a person to make them embezzle funds.


Another defense could be the captivity of the perpetrator to commit such a crime. Say, if the defense proves that the perpetrator had some incapacity (physical or mental) due to which he/she committed such an act, the court can consider this as a strong justification against the charges. For instance, say, the perpetrator was under the induncr of any modification that blurred his/her judgment and caused him/her to transfer funds into his/her bank account or to someone known to him/her. Under such a circumstance, the defense can use this as a strong justification for the act thus committed; however, using intoxicating substances voluntarily can not be considered under this category.

Returning Embezzled Property : a must-know information

While reading about embezzlement, the last but crucial point one must note is that, even if an individual or the offender has voluntarily returned the embezzled property, he/she cannot use this as a complete defense against such an offense. Doing so might help the offender reduce the sentence or the fine. Regardless of whether the defendant voluntarily returned the property or not, the court will most likely order restitution to compensate the victim for the damage thus caused. 


What is burglary

Burglary is typically regarded as an illegitimate entry into a property or structure with the utmost intention to commit a crime inside the place. Burglary is not confined to a home or business; thus, it can include unlawful entry into almost any property, structure or place that the offender does not have actual permission to enter. Burglary can involve any crime, not just theft or larceny, and that crime can be said to be a felony or misdemeanor; so as long as there is an intention to commit crime, it can be regarded as the act of burglary. Besides, there is no requirement for breaking and entering into the property. The offender may trespass through an open door with the intent to commit a crime inside and one can say, a burglary was committed.

Please note : Burglary is different from robbery, as robbery involves using force or fear to obtain the approval of using another person’s property. Usually, there is no victim present when a burglary is committed.

History of burglary

The offense of burglary has been around for centuries; however, it originally developed under common law, but the US states have incorporated this crime into their statutes or Penal Codes. Most of the US states have modified the legal definition of this term. Say, for instance, that under the common law definition of burglary, “the crime had to take place at night in the dwelling of another person.” Most of the states have widened the definition now to include business, and they may no longer have to have been taking place at night. Lawmakers developed burglary laws to protect people’s homes and to deter violence. The main object of developing such laws had very little to do with preventing theft as there were other laws that focused on taking properties. Burglary laws existed to preserve the sanctity of a dwelling and to shield residents from harmful encounters with burglars in their houses.

Examples of burglary

Burglary at a residential place

Mr. Unwanted Houseguest breaks into the private property of Mr. Mishap Magnet with the intention of stealing valuable items like jewelry, electronics, and cash. If caught, he will be charged with the offense of burglary. 

Burglary on a commercial property

Ms. Dine and Dash Dilettante goes to Dr. Detour’s business establishment (his hospital) and steals expensive bedding and other merchandise kept for show. If apprehended, she will face charges of committing burglary.

Burglary at a museum

Ms. Professional Misplacer breaks into a museum to steal some antique art pieces. This act definitely constitutes burglary, and when caught, she will be charged accordingly.

Burglary at a school

Mr. Night time Ninja enters a school building during the night and deals valuables like computers, sports equipment, etc. If caught, he will be charged with committing burglary.

Burglary at a bank

The Stealthy Santa in a Santa costume, breaks into a bank to steal money and valuables like previous jewelry and stones from the vault. If caught, he could be charged with committing burglary.

Burglary at a construction site

Mr. Sneak-thief Extraordinaire enters a construction site to steal tools, equipment and other building materials like cement, copper wiring, and other such items. If caught, he could be held guilty of committing burglary.

Elements of burglary

Every state has its own provision for burglary, meaning that the elements of burglary may vary from state to state. Further, there is also the Model Penal Code, which came into existence in 1962. The MPC was created by the American Law Institute. One must note that this Code is not a federal or state law. It is a Code specifically designed to assist state legislatures in creating their own definitions and statutes for criminal offenses. However, most of the states use the same basic definition of burglary, which is:

  1. Breaking and entering into someone else’s property with having the authority to do so.
  2. Breaking and entering into someone else’s building or structure.
  3. Breaking and entering into someone else’s property with the intention to commit a crime there.

It is crucial that all these elements be present to convict a defendant of committing burglary. Let us have a quick view at each of these elements.

Breaking and entering

The first element of burglary involves breaking into and entering a structure. This can occur is two ways, namely:

  1. Actual, and
  2. Constructive.

Actual breaking

Actual breaking involves physical force. For instance, an offender may pick a stone, smash a window or kick a door and barge into the house/property.  But the force does not have to be way too strong; just a slight force will suffice. A slight force could be a person pushing open a door or opening a window left ajar. 

Constructive breaking

Constructive breaking is way different than actual breaking. It refers to the methods of gaining entry that do not involve  physical force. For instance, constructive breaking would involve blackmail or fraud. Another instance of constructive breaking could be an offender pretending to be a utility worker or a door-to-door salesman to gain access to and eventually, entry to that property. 

Further, irrespective of how a burglar breaks in, they must also enter the structure to satisfy this element. The entry does not have to be maximal, i.e., it could be minimal, meaning the offender does not necessarily have to walk into a building to commit burglary. So say, the offender sticks his hands through a window, then such an act can be a sufficient entry to support the charges of burglary. 

Most importantly, the entry must be made without obtaining the prior consent of the person occupying the property. So, if the owner of the property gave his/her express or implied consent for the offender to enter the property or structure, then the offender’s attorney will have a strong case for dismissing such charges.

Building or occupied structure

 As discussed above, for an offense of burglary to be committed, it is crucial that the burglar or the offender enters into someone’s personal residence. Generally, most of the states in the US have a requirement that the structure or property be capable of housing either people or animals. Further, some states have widened the definition of the term ‘structure’ to include a building designed to shelter property.  Houses qualify under this definition, as do their outlying structures, such as garages and sheds. Stores and office buildings also qualify.


The last and most crucial element of burglary is the intention of the offender to commit a crime inside the building, structure or property. Usually, this crime is theft or petty theft. However, there are other crimes that could be said to be burglaries. 

Most importantly, the intention of the offender to commit crime has to exist separately. For instance, if a person uses fraud to enter an art gallery so that he/she can look at the painting and beautiful pieces of art, then no burglary has occurred. The only crime committed here was fraud to enter the gallery. However, if the person steals any art or structure from the gallery, then the offense elevates to burglary.

Penalties for burglary

The penalty for burglary may vary from one year to ten years of imprisonment or a fine, at times, both depending on the statute of the state wherein such an act was committed and the inference of the court on how serious the charges are to be pressed against the offender. Let us take a look at how burglary is charged in some states of the US.

Penalties for burglary : a state-wise perspective

District of Columbia (South Carolina)

In DC, there are two degrees of burglary, and both of them are regarded as felony offenses.

First degree burglary

In DC, if a defendant is found guilty of committing burglary by entering into someone’s dwelling, like a house or an apartment, or by entering into an individual’s room with someone present in the building, and the accused has all the intentions to either take something, commit some form of theft, or commit any other criminal offense, then he/she will be held guilty of first-degree burglary.

The punishment for such an act is serving jail time of not less than 5 years and not more than 30 years. It is noteworthy that second-degree burglary is quite similar, but there are some slight differences. Let us take a look at them.

Second degree burglary

In DC, if an individual enters the property, whether in broad daylight or at night, with the intention of committing some form of theft or other criminal offense, then they have committed second-degree burglary. If they are convicted, burglary in the second degree has a punishment of not less than 2 years of imprisonment and no more than 15 years.


In Wyoming, a person can be held guilty of committing burglary if, without authority, he/she enters or remains in a building, occupied structure, property, or vehicle with the intention of committing theft or a felony therein. In this state, burglary is a felony that is punishable with imprisonment of not more than 10 years or a fine that does not exceed $10,000, at times the offender could be charged with both.

Further, there is another type of burglary- aggravated burglary, which is a felony that is punishable with imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than 25 years or a fine that does not exceed $50,000. At times, the offender could be charged with both, usually when:

  1. The offender is armed, has used a deadly weapon, or has stimulated deadly weapon.
  2. The offender knowingly or recklessly inflicts bodily harm on another individual. 
  3. The offender attempts to inflict bodily injury on another individual.


In the state of Nevada, the crime of burglary is a Category B Felony. If the accused is convicted of committing burglary, he/she may face 1 to 10 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections and may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000. Further, if he/she used a deadly weapon during the burglary, then he/she may face 2 to 15 years in the Nevada Department of Corrections.


Under Wis. Stat. §§ 939.50, 943.10 (2020), burglary is a Class F felony, and attracts a penalty ranging from 6 months to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. 

Top defenses for burglary

Some of the most common defenses to a burglary charge are:


If the accused has not committed a break-in, then his/her attorney can argue that he/she is innocent. The lawyer can submit proof that the accused was absent at the location when the alleged crime was committed. The attorney may also present an alibi to support his/her arguments. However, finally, the state has the burden of proof in criminal cases like this.

Lack of intent

In order to convict a burglar of burglary, the state has to prove that the accused had the intention of committing a crime when he/she broke into the structure or property.

Permission or consent

To be convicted of committing burglary, the prosecution has to show that one was unlawfully in the property. If the attorney for the accused can provide proof that the accused has the authorization to enter the property, then the chances of the charges being dismissed are pretty high.

Please note : Every case is different and every state has its own set of rules. Hence, it is always advised to seek assistance of a defense lawyer when such a serious charge is pressed upon you.


What is vandalism

Vandalism is regarded as the act of intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying someone else’s property. This is an issue that affects property owners and the community. Also, the property owners have to pay hefty charges to clean up the mess. The laws against vandalism were enacted to prevent property crimes and thereby reduce the amount of damage to such properties. The damage caused by such an act can be in various forms, namely, through defacing, damaging, or destroying public or private property.

The offenders committing such a crime may be asked to perform community service, like cleaning up a local park, or they may also be asked to clean up and repair the damage they made to the property. At times, the penalties may include:

  1. Imprisonment,
  2. Fines,
  3. At times, both imprisonment and fine.

Examples of vandalism

Example 1

Mr. Spray painter paints over a wall without obtaining prior consent of the owner of that property.

Example 2

Mr. John slashes the tyre of another person’s vehicle.

Definition of vandalism

Vandalism is a broad category of crimes against property and can be used to describe a variety of behaviors. Usually, it includes a willful behavior that destroys, alters or defaces any priority belonging to someone else. It can be committed by defacing a place of worship or tampering with another person’s property. The list of willful acts are as follows:

  1. Using spray paint on another individual’s property to deface it.
  2. ‘Egging’, meaning throwing eggs on a person’s car or home.
  3. Keying (or scraping off) paint off of someone’s car.
  4. Smashing someone’s windows.
  5. Defacing public property with graffiti and other forms of ‘art’ or defacing park benches.
  6. Altering or knocking down street signs.
  7. Kicking and damaging someone’s property with your hands or feet.

Penalties for vandalism

Depending on the legislation of the state in which the act of vandalism took place and the amount of damage caused to the property, the wrongdoing could be charged as either misdemeanor vandalism or felony vandalism.

Please note : Vandalism on its own is regarded as a nonviolent crime; however, other acts may also happen during the commission  of vandalism which could escalate the charges. 

Let us have a quick glimpse at what the state laws have to say on such an activity.

Penalties for vandalism : a state-wise perspective


In California, there are several forms of punishment for the act of vandalism, each depending upon the nature of the crime, they are as follows:

Misdemeanor vandalism

Misdemeanor vandalism, where the damage to property is of value less than $400 attracts a punishment of up to 1 year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.

Misdemeanor or felony vandalism

For a misdemeanor or felony vandalism, where the damage caused to the property is $400 or more, the prosecution has the discretion to charge a defendant with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the severity of the crime. Misdemeanor or felony vandalism attracts a punishment of up to 3  year of imprisonment (in a California State penitentiary) and a fine of up to $10,000.

Prior vandalism convictions

If the offender has been previously convicted of vandalism to property valued at less than $400, he/she could be sentenced to serve jail time for 1 year or less, and be forced to pay fines up to $5,000.

Hate crime – vandalism to a church

If a person commits vandalism at a church, it could also be designated as a hate crime. Such an act attracts felony charges and, up to 3 years of imprisonment.

Gang-related vandalism

If an individual commits vandalism and such an offense is gang related, he/she may have to face an imprisonment of up to 4 years.

Interesting fact : The aforementioned activity could also qualify as a ‘strike’ under California’s Three Strikes Law.


Colorado vandalism laws are penalized differently depending on the aggregate amount of damage to property. They are as follows:

Class 3 misdemeanor

If the damage to the property is under $300, it is regarded as Class 3 misdemeanor. Such an offense is punishable with imprisonment of up to 6 months and/or $50-$750 in fine.

Class 2 misdemeanor

If the damage to the property is between $300-$750, it is regarded as Class 2 misdemeanor. Such an act is punishable with 3-12 months of imprisonment and/or $250-$1,000 in fine.

Class 1 misdemeanor

If the damage to the property is between $750-$1,000, it is regarded as Class 1 misdemeanor. Such an act is punishable with 6-18 months imprisonment and/or $500-$5,000 in fine.

Class 6 felony

If the damage to the property is between $1,000-$5,000, it is regarded as a Class 6 felony. Such an act is punishable with 12-18 months imprisonment and/or $1,000-$100,000 in fine.

Class 5 felony

If the damage to the property is between $5,000-$20,000, it is regarded as a Class 5 felony. Such an act is punishable with 1-3 years imprisonment and/or $1,000-$100,000 in fine.

Class 4 felony

If the damage to the property is between $20,000-$100,000 it is regarded as a Class 4 felony. Such an act is punishable with 2-6 years imprisonment and/or $2,000-$500,000 in fine.

Class 3 felony

If the damage to the property is between $100,000-$1,000,000 it is regarded as a Class 3 felony. Such an act is  punishable with 4-12 years imprisonment and/or $3,000-$750,000 in fine.

Class 2 felony

If the damage to the property is over $1,000,000 it is regarded as Class 2 felony. Such an act is punishable with 8-24 years imprisonment and/or $5,000-$1,000,000 in fine.


Under Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code, the penalties for vandalism vary based on various factors like prior felony convictions, causing death or serious bodily injury or harm to the victim, and the usage of weapons in committing such a crime. Here are the list of penalties under the statute:

Class C misdemeanor

A person charged and convicted of a vandalism offense may face a Class C misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of up to $500.

Class B misdemeanor

A Class B misdemeanor can lead to an imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine not exceeding $2,000.

Class A misdemeanor

Class A misdemeanors can result in an imprisonment  of up to one year and/or a fine not exceeding $4,000.

State jail felony 

State jail felonies may lead to a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Third degree felony

A felony of the third degree can result in a prison sentence of two to ten years and/or fines up to $10,000.

Second degree felony

Felonies of the second degree can result in an imprisonment of two to 20 years and/or fines not exceeding $10,000.

First degree felony

A felony of the first degree is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 99 years or life imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Top defenses for vandalism

The potential defenses an attorney can use to defend his/her client when charged with vandalism are as follows:

  1. Insufficient evidence,
  2. Owner had consented for the activity,
  3. Damage done solely to defendant’s property,
  4. Damage caused accidentally,
  5. Lack of intention to engage in vandalism,
  6. Mistaken identity, and
  7.  False accusation.


What is arson

Arson is one of the most serious property crimes in the United States. Fire is not predictable and can cause extensive damage to one’s property and may also result in death. Further, it can also risk the lives of firefighters who go on extinguishing the flames or rescue anyone stuck inside the place where the mishap took place.

Examples of arson

The Firefighter as arsonist

When it comes to uncommon cases of arson, this case will definitely be cited. Here, a firefighter from Placerville, California, confessed to committing arson for a wildfire that burned 80 acres in 2007. This person also admitted to starting numerous wildfires in El Dorado and Amador counties. However, he only served jail time for causing one fire. Benjamin Cunha said he set the fires to earn overtime pay and to impress his firefighter peers. He received a sentence of five years in prison.

Arson amidst a riot

An individual from Galesburg, Illinois, was held guilty of committing arson in Minneapolis in May 2020, when thousands of people gathered for peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. However, Matthew Rupert traveled approximately 400 miles from his home to participate in the riot, as per his Facebook post. He went on recording a Facebook Live video where he was seen requesting lighter fluid before entering a Sprint store that was subsequently set on fire.

In the aftermath of these events, at least 21 individuals faced federal charges related to arson or aiding and abetting arson. Over the course of three days, numerous fires were ignited in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The arsonist neighbor

Stanley Ford, a resident of Akron, Ohio was finally held guilty of committing arson in 2022 for the arson deaths of nine neighbors in 2016 and 2017. The condition sentence was delayed considering the COVID-19 times. A Court TV story provided an extensive coverage of the testimony and evidence in the case against Ford. Ford has vascular dementia and brain damage. He has to serve nine consecutive life sentences in prison.

Degrees of arson charges

Furthermore, arson charges are categorized by the damage caused, amongst other factors. The charges range from:

First degree arson

First degree arson refers to the act of intentionally setting fire to a structure where there’s a risk to human life, typically a residence or a place where people live.

Second degree arson

Second degree arson refers to burning an unoccupied or vacant structure, like an abandoned building, barn, or vehicle.

Third degree arson

The penalty for third degree arson may vary from state to state. It might involve burning an open space like a parking lot or field, or it could encompass arson committed for insurance fraud.

Fourth degree arson

Fourth degree arson is charged when a fire is recklessly started, thus leading to property damage.

Fifth degree arson

Only a few states in the US, like New York, charge for fifth degree arson as a misdemeanor. It usually relates to the burning of personal property, and even in misdemeanor cases, it can result in imprisonment and fines.

Aggravated arson

Moreover, there is a term called aggravated arson. This is a serious charge enhancement that will increase one’s penalties. Aggravated arson is when a fire is set intentionally and involves injuries or death. It is a first or second-degree arson charge enhancement.

Penalties for arson

The federal arson laws forbids the intentional and vicious setting of fires within the maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. The statute applies to:

  1. Buildings,
  2. Structures or vessels,
  3. Machinery or building materials or supplies,
  4. Military or naval stores,
  5. Munitions of war,
  6. Any structural aids or appliances for navigation or shipping.

Please note : Federal criminal punishments are quite stringent. If found guilty, an arsonist could face 25 years in prison or life in prison if the life of any individual was in danger during the fire. Further, the federal arson laws also penalize the attempt to execute arson or to enter into a conspiracy to commit arson.

Penalties for arson : a state-wise perspective

North Carolina

As per North Carolina’s arson laws the burning of an occupied dwelling or mobile home is a first-degree felony. Arson on an unoccupied structure is a second-degree crime. North Carolina criminal statutes assign punishments based on the type of building (the list includes schools, places of business, churches, boats, etc.)


Arson laws in the state of Illinois explicitly state that arson crimes exist only if the property damaged had a value above $150. It is noteworthy that some buildings, like schools or churches, do not have a minimum value for arson.

The state of Illinois makes a distinction between arson and aggravated arson. For an aggravated arson charge, the fire must have been purposely set and there must be at least one of the following:

  • An individual was inside the building.
  • There was tremendous bodily harm caused to an individual.
  • There was injury to a policeman or fireman acting in the line of duty.

New York

In the state of New York, state arson laws have divided the crime into five different classes, with four felony charges and one misdemeanor. Each charge could carry a prolonged prison penalty. A key distinction between the charges is the occupation of the building at the time of the fire. They also consider the use of an incendiary device (like a Molotov cocktail).


California’s criminal law includes the burning of forest land in its arson statutes. It can attract a penalty of up to 6 years in prison.

Top defenses for arson

Some common defenses an attorney can use while defending his crime include:

  1. The defendant had no intention of starting the fire.
  2. The prosecution does not have adequate proof of the defendant being guilty of committing such an act.
  3. The defendant is mentally unfit, has mental illness, or has some other impairment.
  4. There are mitigating circumstances for the incident that can either reduce or eliminate potential penalties for an arson conviction.
  5. The defendant was provoked or entrapped to commit such an act.
  6. The defendant had a reasonable justification for setting the fire.


What is shoplifting

The term shoplifting is generally defined as a theft crime that involves taking merchandise from a store or place of business. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, a series of recent thefts at high-end retail stores in the form of flash mob-style robberies has left both shoppers and the general public on edge. These occurrences of mob theft or robbery typically feature groups of nearly 30 organized robbers who slip on masks and resort to violence to loot hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of commodities, and shockingly, such incidents have frequently occurred in broad daylight.

Usually, shoplifting is considered a type of larceny, which is why a lot of states in the US punish shoplifting under their general larceny or theft statutes. However, there are some states that consider shoplifting a distinct crime. States may refer to the crime by different names including retail theft and contentment of merchandise.

Examples of shoplifting

Example 1

Mr. Sneaky Steve goes into a designer clothing store, selects a designer jacket, takes a trial, and secretly hides the same under his own clothing, and then shifts it into his duffle bag before exiting the store without paying for it. When caught, he will be punished accordingly.

Example 2

Ms. Pocketful Petey goes to a watch shop and replaces an expensive watch with a cheaper one. She then attempts to purchase the cheaper item while stealing the expensive one. When caught, she will be punished accordingly.

Example 3

Mr. Five Finger Fred quickly grabs a ring from a jewelry store and escapes the place. When caught, he will be punished accordingly.

Example 4

Mr. Swipe Sylvester smartly switches the price tags on expensive gadgets with those from lower priced items to pay less than the actual amount. When caught, he will be punished accordingly.

Example 5

Ms. Grabbemall Grace, while in a self-checkout line at a big-box store, purposely errs in scanning two expensive pendants. She pretends to scan all the items, thereby leaving the store without paying the full price for all the items she took. When caught, she will be punished accordingly.

Elements of shoplifting

Every state has a different law when it comes to shoplifting, however, all of them have the following basic elements in common:

  1. Willfully concealing or taking possession of items that are put up on sale.
  2. The intent to deprive the items’ rightful owner (normally the store) of custody of the commodities without paying the purchase price.

Further, another element is hiding an item to avoid paying for it. Also, shoplifting statutes forbid actions that avoid paying the full retail value of an item. This can include:

  1. Altering or switching price tags,
  2. Manipulating merchandise,
  3. Putting goods into different containers or packaging to avoid paying all or part of the retail price.

Penalties for shoplifting

Just like any other crimes against property, the severity of the act of shoplifting vary from state to state and depends on other factors like-

  1. The value of the merchandise involved.
  2.  What sort of items have been shoplifted (say, drugs, guns, or other weapons are lifted the charges may elevate).

Also, first shoplifting convictions often result in a fine. However, depending on the state, misdemeanor shoplifting charges may also result in imprisonment or community service. Felony theft convictions may result in longer jail sentences, longer terms of probation, and larger fines.

Penalties for shoplifting : a state wise perspective


The exact definition of shoplifting can be found in the Delaware Criminal Code under 11 Del.C. §840. Usually, an offender is guilty of shoplifting if he/she takes anything from a store or conceals that thing from a store. If an individual conceals any commodity, there is a presumption in Delaware and some of the other states in the US that the person is going to steal the commodity. Which iswhy, one must keep their items in a cart or basket that is visible instead of placing them under clothing or in a baby stroller.

Shoplifting (Class A misdemeanor) 

Shoplifting is categorized as a Class A misdemeanor when the total value of the merchandise taken or concealed is $1500 or less. For a first-time offense, the sentencing guidelines typically recommend up to 1 year of non-reporting probation. However, the maximum legal penalty includes up to 1 year in jail and a fine of $2300. If this is the first offense for an individual, it is advisable to explore options to avoid a criminal record, such as seeking to have the charge dismissed or participating in a diversionary program like probation before judgment.

Shoplifting (Class G Felony)

Shoplifting is a Class G felony when the value of the items taken is $1500 or greater or the items were taken from three separate establishments. The sentencing guideline calls for a presumptive sentence of up to 1 year on probation. The maximum sentence a judge can pass down by law is up to 2 years in jail. If this is the offender’s first offense, he/she should try to fight the charges, obtain some type of diversion program or plead the case down to a misdemeanor. A felony theft offense on your criminal record will be devastating when it comes to employment.


Shoplifting is comsdered a type of theft in Texas.

Class B misdemeanor

Class B misdemeanor occurs when the property value taken is between $100 and $750. Such an act is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.

Class A misdemeanor

Class A misdemeanor occurs when the property value taken is between $750 and $2,500. Such an act is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and 180 days in jail.

State jail felony

State jail felony occurs when the property value taken is between $2,500 and $30,000. Such an act is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 180 days to 2 years in state jail.

Third degree felony

Third-degree felony when the property value taken is more than $30,000 between $150,000. Such an act is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 2 to 10 years in prison.

Second degree felony

Second-degree felony when the property value taken is between $150,000 to $300,000, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and two to twenty years in prison.

First degree felony

First-degree felony when the property value taken is more than $300,000. Such an act is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 5 to 99 years in prison.

Top defenses for shoplifting

The most common defenses an attornry can use to safeguard his client from facing harsh penalties are as follows:

  • The accused had no intention to shoplift.
  • It was not the accused who committed the crime.
  • The rights of the accused were violated under 4th Amendment search and seizure.
  • The prosecution does not have enough evidence for a conviction.

Receiving stolen property

Receiving stolen property : an overview 

Imagine it’s your birthday, and you receive an expensive present from a friend. You are in awe and shock wondering how the friend could afford such an expensive present. Anyway, you accept the present and carry on with your life only to realize you have police officials knocking at your doorstep to arrest  you for receiving stolen property. You might wonder whether the police officials will actually make an arrest considering that you were unaware that the item was stolen. Most often, you will be set free; however, there have been instances where individuals have been wrongfully convicted of receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property : penalties

Depending on the circumstances of the act, receiving stolen items may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. 


If the entire value of the connected property is $950 or less, it must be charged as a misdemeanor, which carries fines and/or jail time of up to $1,000 as well as possible jail time of up to one year. 


If the value of the property is beyond $950, a felony charge may be filed. Such charges attract a potential sentence of 3 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Stats on crime against property

Stats on crime against property in 2010

  1. In 2010, there were an estimated 9,082,887 property crime offenses in the Nation. 
  2. Further, the rate of property crime was estimated at 2,941.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, a 3.3 percent decrease when compared with the rate in 2009. The 2010 property crime rate was 12.1 percent lower than the 2006 rate and 19.6 percent below the 2001 rate.
  3. Larceny-theft accounted for around 68.1% of all property crimes. 
  4. Burglary accounted for 23.8% of all property crimes. 
  5. Motor vehicle theft accounts for 8.1% of all property crimes.
  6. Property crimes in 2010 resulted in losses estimated at 15.7 billion dollars.

Stats on crime against property in 2019

  1. In 2019, there were an estimated 6,925,677 property crime offenses in the nation. 
  2. The rate of property crime was estimated at 2,109.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, a 4.5 percent decrease when compared with the 2018 estimated rate
  3. The property crime rate was 15.6 percent less than the 2015 estimate and 28.4 percent less than the 2010 estimate.
  4. Larceny-theft accounted for 73.4% of all property crimes. 
  5. Burglary accounted for 16.1% of all property crimes.
  6. Motor vehicle theft accounted for 10.4% of all property crimes.
  7. Property crimes in 2019 resulted in losses estimated at $15.8 billion.


In this article, we read everything about crimes against property in the US. Hoping the article has provided the readers with enough knowledge of each of the crimes against property in the US states.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on crimes against property in the US

What is the most common crimes against property?

The most common types of property crimes include:

  1. Robbery, 
  2. Shoplifting, 
  3. Burglary,
  4. Vandalism, 
  5. Arson, 
  6. Theft, 
  7. Larceny, 
  8. Trespassing, 
  9. Extortion, and
  10. Embezzlement.

What is the punishment for the offense of committing crimes against priority in the US?

Well, there is no straight jacket answer to this question. The punishment for each offense varies depending on several factors, like:

  1. The amount of property damaged,
  2. The value of the property,
  3. The circumstances in which such an act was committed,
  4. The number of lives lost (if any), etc.



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