Indiana Theft Laws and Potential Penalties

November 16, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Indiana Theft Laws and Potential Penalties 

Regardless of whether you have shoplifted a cheap pair of earrings, taken an item from someone else’s home or stolen a motor vehicle, the Indiana theft laws are clear: if you’re convicted of theft in Indiana, you will face serious penalties. Depending on the value of the property that was stolen and any prior theft-related offenses, you could be charged with felony theft in Indiana, which carries a penalty of up to 6 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.   

Those charged with Indiana theft crimes will find the legal process to be much more manageable with the help of an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney. Keffer Hirschauer LLP employs former deputy prosecutors who are available to help you understand your options and fight for the best possible outcome in the criminal case against you. If you want to ensure that you’re doing all that you can to defend yourself against theft-related charges, call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form. 

The Definition of Theft in Indiana Code  

The Indiana theft laws contained in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2 define the criminal offense of theft as, “knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person, with the intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use.” 

Although the Indiana theft laws may seem rather broad, the statute does further define what some of the phrasings explicitly means. For example, Indiana Code 35-43-4-1 states that “exert control over property,” means to “obtain, take, carry, drive, lead away, conceal, abandon, sell, convey, encumber, or possess property; or to secure, transfer, or extend a right to property.”  

Common Types of Theft Indiana

Furthermore, Indiana code on theft states that a person’s control over another person’s property is unauthorized if it is “exerted without the other person’s (or business’) consent” or “in a manner or to an extent other than that to which the other person (or business) has consented.” For example, this may include:  

  • Taking property without an owner’s consent 
  • Taking property in a manner that differs from what the owner consented to  
  • Failing to disclose a lien or encumbrance 
  • Creating or confirming a false impression in the property owner or failing to correct a false impression 
  • Indicating an intent to damage the property  
  • Promising performance that one doesn’t intend to perform 
  • Transferring recorded or live performances without permission 

Indiana Theft or Conversion?  

In addition to theft, there is another related criminal offense called conversion. Indiana Code 35-43-4-3 defines conversion as, “knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person.”   

Although these two criminal offenses seem to have the same definition, they apply to different types of situations. Conversion charges often arise from situations where the offender intends to return the stolen property. For example, one could be charged with conversion if they paid to stay at an Airbnb for four weeks but continued to dwell on the property after their planned four-week stay had expired. 

Indiana theft laws, on the other hand, state that for an offense to be considered theft, it must be committed with “the intent to deprive the other person of any part of the property’s value or use.” In other words, the offender has no intent to return the property or compensate the property owner. For example, shoplifting in Indiana is a clear “theft” offense. The reason being is that to be considered a conversion offense, one must not intend to deprive the property owner of any part of the stolen property’s value. By nature, when shoplifting something from the store, the offender intends to deprive the property owner of the property’s value.    

What Qualifies as Misdemeanor Theft in Indiana? 

When property valued at less than $750 is stolen, it shall be considered Class A misdemeanor theft in Indiana. However, it’s important to understand how property is valued by Indiana courts. Indiana theft laws state that courts shall define the “value of property,” as either the fair market value of the property at the time and place the offense was committed or, if that cannot be determined, the cost to replace the property within a reasonable time after the offense was committed. As stated in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2(b)(2), a price tag or price marking on property displayed or offered for sale constitutes prima facie evidence of the face value of that property.  

What Qualifies as Felony Theft in Indiana? 

As Indiana theft crime attorneys, one of the most common questions we are asked is: “what is the dollar amount for felony theft in Indiana?” The answer is $750. Per the Indiana Code on theft, Level 6 felony theft is defined as exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person, with the intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use; AND the property is valued at $750 or more, but less than $50,000. Furthermore, a person can be charged with a Level 6 felony if the value of the property is less than $750, but the person has a prior, unrelated conviction for theft, criminal conversion, robbery, or burglary. 

Per Indiana theft laws, some offenses can result in a Level 5 felony charge. This can occur when the property that was stolen has a fair market value of $50,000 or more; is a firearm; or is a valuable metal, as defined in Indiana Code 25-37.5-1-1 and relates to transportation safety; public safety; or was taken from a hospital, healthcare facility, telecommunications provider, public utility, or critical infrastructure facility. Offenders can also be charged with a Level 5 felony when the property that has been stolen is a motor vehicle, a component part of a motor vehicle (as defined in Indiana Code 9-13-2-34), or the person has a prior, unrelated conviction for theft of a motor vehicle or theft of a component part. 

Per the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines contained in Indiana Code 35-50, a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. Those charged with Level 6 felony theft in Indiana, however, face much more serious penalties of up to 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Furthermore, those charged with Level 5 felony theft in Indiana face the harshest penalties, including up to six years in prison and $10,000 in fines.  

Collateral Penalties and Consequences 

Beyond the penalties associated with the convictions listed in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2, those convicted under Indiana theft laws may face additional collateral penalties. Depending on the judge, the law, and the context of the theft, these consequences could be rather significant, such as probation or scrutiny placed on a professional license in Indiana. In other cases, the collateral consequences could be mild, like community service or paying restitution. 

Per Indiana Code 35-40-5-7, property owners can seek financial returns for their losses from someone convicted of theft in Indiana. If the offender is a minor, the property owner may seek a financial return from the minor’s parents or guardians in certain circumstances. Even if the fair market value of the stolen property wasn’t monumental, it’s important to understand that Indiana judges may award up to 3 times the amount of actual losses, as well as reimbursement for costs and fees the property owner has incurred. 

Regardless of the conviction level, the sheer existence of a criminal record can have collateral consequences that impact nearly every part of a person’s life. Having been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime can affect future employment opportunities, school or loan applications, or apartment rentals. If you’ve been convicted under the Indiana theft laws and want to shed the weight of your criminal record, Indiana expungement may be an option for you. Indiana expungement law allows you to seal your criminal records and prevent a theft conviction from having a negative effect on any future convictions, should the occasion arise. 

Not sure if you qualify for expungement? The Indiana expungement and record sealing attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to review your record. Call us today at (317) 751-7186 or complete our online contact form.   

Convicted under Indiana Theft Laws? Call an Attorney 

When charged under Indiana theft laws, it’s vital to enlist the help of a skilled Indiana criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you do so, the sooner your attorney can begin working on protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome. When crafting a defense for charges related to Indiana theft, a sound defense attorney would look at the circumstances of your arrest or charges to see if there are any issues with how law enforcement handled the situation. They will also review the facts of your case, the evidence the State has against you, and begin to craft the best defense possible. There are a variety of possible defenses for charges of theft in Indiana that may negate a critical element of the alleged crime—intent: 

In some cases, your attorney may attempt to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced; in other cases, they may seek leniency, restitution or the suspension of the possible sentence. They could also explore Indiana diversion programs and alternative misdemeanor sentencing, if it’s applicable to your specific situation.  

Diversion Programs  

For those without any prior offenses, the penalties associated with a conviction under Indiana theft laws may seem particularly harsh. Fortunately, Indiana diversion programs pave the way for one to have their charges against them dismissed. However, these programs require that the offender participate in the program to the satisfaction of the court.  

In Indiana, the availability of diversion programs and eligibility requirements are determined by each specific county. Therefore, one should consult with an experienced Indiana theft attorney to better understand if this type of program would be an option for them.  

Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing  

Alternative misdemeanor sentencing in Indiana is a process through which you can seek to convert an offense classified as a Level 6 felony under Indiana theft laws to a Class A misdemeanor. If successful, the offender would carry a less serious conviction on their criminal record and enjoy the benefits that the lower classification offers. For example, a Level 6 felony carries a penalty of 6 months to 2.5 years in prison, while a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1-year in prison and a $5,000 fine. Therefore, by seeking alternative misdemeanor sentencing, the offender may avoid the risk of 2.5-year sentence, as well as the collateral consequences of a felony conviction.    

Depending on the charges, alternative misdemeanor sentencing can be a complex legal avenue to pursue. Indiana Code 35-50-2-7 states that when a person is convicted of a Level 6 felony theft in Indiana, the court may enter judgement of conviction of a Class A misdemeanor theft and sentence accordingly. However, the person cannot have committed a prior, unrelated felony that was reduced using Alternative Misdemeanor sentencing within the past three years; and the offense at issue cannot be domestic battery or possession of child pornography. If the offender’s conviction is successfully converted under this statute, they cannot be convicted of a felony within five years of the date that the conversion occurred. If they are convicted within that time frame, the prosecuting attorney can petition the court to convert the person’s Class A misdemeanor conviction back to a Level 6 felony.   

In situations where Indiana Code 35-50-2-7 doesn’t apply, an experienced Indiana theft crimes attorney may pursue alternative misdemeanor actions sentencing provided in Indiana Code 35-38-1-1.5. This statutory provision provides an avenue for converting Level 6 felonies to Class A misdemeanors given prosecutor approval and consent of the court. In order to be eligible, under this provision, the defendant must:  

  • Plead guilty to a Level 6 felony of the type that qualifies for consideration under the statute, 
  • Agree to the conditions by the court, and  
  • Consent to the conversion 

When an offender has their conviction converted under this statute, the court will enter a judgement for a Level 6 felony theft conviction, which may later convert to a Class A misdemeanor theft if/when the defendant has met all the condition imposed by the court when the alternative misdemeanor agreement was signed. 

Need Assistance with Indiana Theft Charges?  

If you have been charged under the Indiana theft laws, Keffer Hirschauer LLP is equipped to defend you vigorously. You can feel confident partnering with our criminal defense attorneys, who have intimate knowledge of Indiana theft laws stemming from their past as former prosecutors. Having worked on both sides of a criminal case, they understand how the prosecution thinks and how the courts decide these types of cases. With the theft crime defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP by your side, you’ll have a better chance of having your charges reduced or dismissed completely. Give us a call today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to begin crafting your defense.  

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