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What's the difference between misdemeanor and felony theft?

People can face theft charges over all kinds of behavior, from shoplifting in a store to joyriding in someone else's vehicle. Although some people may think of theft as a relatively minor crime, it can have dramatic implications for its victims. It also undermines the social contract of good behavior that we all expect when we live in polite society.

As such, Nebraska does take steps to catch and punish those who steal from other people or from businesses. Laws regarding theft in Nebraska are relatively thorough. Certain kinds of theft result in misdemeanor charges, while others will be seen as felony cases.

Understanding the law can help you predict whether a situation may result in felony or misdemeanor charges. That knowledge can help you in the process of formulating an appropriate legal strategy to respond to pending theft charges.

The value of the stolen items will impact the charges someone faces

The single most important factor in what class of criminal charge a defendant will face is the price of the item or items involved. The lowest and least serious theft charge an individual could face would be a Class 2 misdemeanor offense if the items are worth $500 or less.

Stolen goods worth more than $500 but less than $1,500 will result in Class 1 misdemeanor charges. Goods worth $1,500 or more can carry felony charges. Items with a value of more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 will result in Class IV felony charges. Finally, items worth $5,000 or more will result in Class IIA felony charges.

That class will likely include any form of motor vehicle theft. It's also important to note that lower value misdemeanor theft charges can become felony theft charges for individuals with previous convictions.

It is possible to defend against theft charges

Some people think that theft charges are impossible to defend against, even if they continue to claim their own innocence. When law enforcement allege that they found you in possession of stolen goods or when a store operator claims to have caught you in the act of shoplifting, it can seem hopeless.

However, there are many potential defense strategies available to those facing theft charges. Whether the charges you face are misdemeanor or felony charges, a criminal defense can minimize the impact of those charges on your life. Jail time, fines and other consequences can have an immediate effect on your life and your job.

Any sort of criminal conviction can result in a criminal record that haunts you for life. You could also face more serious penalties if you run into trouble with the law again in the future. Avoiding an initial conviction is always in your best interest.

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