Most people do not think of theft as a serious crime, as it does not involve violence or weapons. However, theft can result in serious financial harm to others and, when that happens, it might rise to the level of a felony offense.
Under Indiana criminal laws, a person commits the crime of theft by knowingly or intentionally “exerting unauthorized control” over another’s property, with the intent to deprive the other person of the value or use of the property. To “exert unauthorized control” over someone’s property means taking something that does not belong to you without authorization, and this includes taking, obtaining, concealing, or transferring property:
- without the consent of the property’s owner
- by creating an impression that you own the property when you do not
- by making false promises about the property
- by threatening to do damage to the property that belongs to someone else if they do not do what you want them to do, otherwise known as extortion or blackmail
- without the property owner’s consent, typically by embezzlement or misappropriation), or
- while failing to disclose a legal fact that impacts the property owner’s ability to use the property as they otherwise would.
The term “property” itself has a much broader meaning under Indiana law than is commonly understood. The law defines property to be basically anything of value ranging from tangibles such as real estate, personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, to intangibles such as trade secrets, credit, contractual rights, and even animals.
Classification of Theft as a Felony
Theft is classified in Indiana based on the value and type of property stolen, the circumstances involved, and the offender’s prior criminal history. The most serious of these is felony theft.
Level 5 Felony Theft
This is the highest level of theft classification, which includes:
- theft of property valued at $50,000 or more
- a second or subsequent offense for theft of an automobile or its part, or
- theft of a valuable metal that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to others and either: (a) relates to transportation or public safety or (b) is taken from a health care facility, telecommunications provider, public utility, or critical infrastructure facility.
A conviction for a class 5 felony brings with it a possible sentence of one to six years of imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
Level 6 Felony Theft
A person commits a level 6 felony by doing any of the following:
- stealing property valued at $750 or more but less than $50,000
- stealing a firearm, motor vehicle, or motor vehicle parts, or
- committing a second or subsequent theft or conversion offense.
A conviction for a class 6 felony carries a possible sentence of six months to two and a half years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.