Phoenix Theft Attorney

Have You Been Charged with Theft?

If you have been charged with shoplifting or any other theft offense, the potential consequences are serious. Even if the charge is a misdemeanor, a theft conviction can follow you and affect your job opportunities and your life for years to come. The theft laws in Arizona can be complicated, and you need an experienced Phoenix theft lawyer to provide you with a sound defense. Talk to the attorneys at Castañeda Law. Your initial consultation is free.

What are the different types of theft crimes?

If you look at A.R.S. 13-802, which is the basic theft law in Arizona, you will see that the initial definition of “theft” includes over a dozen different variations. All of them involve taking money, property or services in a way that is illegal.

Theft can be outright stealing of property that does not belong to you, or it can be the conversion of property which was entrusted to you, but which you then appropriate for yourself without permission. This latter form of theft is known as embezzlement. Other acts constituting theft are shoplifting; failing to return lost property you know belongs to another person; obtaining property by making a material misrepresentation; extortion; failure to return leased property when required legally to do so; issuing a check knowing that there are insufficient funds to cover it; and theft of trade secrets, among others.


Although shoplifting is a theft charge, it is treated separately by statute from other theft offenses. The crime usually consists of a person entering into a retail establishment, and intentionally taking something without paying for it. Other variations on shoplifting charges are:

  • Charging the cost of goods to a person who is either fictitious, or who has not given permission for the charge.
  • Switching labels and engaging in similar conduct in order to obtain goods at a reduced price.
  • Moving goods from one container to another.
  • Taking goods and concealing them.

The penalties for shoplifting depend, in large part, on the value of the goods in question. Shoplifting goods having a value of less than $1,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor. If the value is at least $1,000, but less than $2,000, it is a class 6 felony. If the value is more than $2,000, it is a class 5 felony. However, if the property consists of a handgun, if shoplifting is part of a continuing criminal episode, or if shoplifting is done in order to further street gang activity, the offense is a felony. Finally, shoplifting is a felony if the suspect uses a device, container or other article to facilitate the theft, or if the suspect has at least two prior offenses within the previous five years for burglary, shoplifting, robbery, or organized retail theft. Diversion may be available in some cases.

What are the penalties for a theft conviction?

Most theft cases are classified based upon the value of the property involved. Those classifications are as follows:

  • Less than $1,000 – Class 1 misdemeanor
  • At least $1,000 but less than $2,000 – Class 6 felony
  • At least $2,000 but less than $3,000 – Class 5 felony
  • At least $3,000 but less than $4,000 – Class 4 felony
  • At least $4,000 but less than $25,000 – Class 3 felony
  • $25,000 or more – Class 2 felony

Other variables may also affect the classification. They include theft of a vehicle, firearm or an animal taken for the purpose of fighting, prior criminal history, organized retail theft, theft of trade secrets, unlawful removing of theft detection devices and similar acts, and more. In many cases, these additional factors, if present will lead to a felony classification for the offense. Another example is burglary, which is always a felony.

Sentencing for theft crimes varies considerably depending upon the specifics of the case. Most misdemeanor theft crimes carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail, although probation may be available. For first time felony offenders, the presumptive sentence will be between one year and five years, depending upon the level of the offense.

Defenses to Shoplifting and other Theft Charges

Some of the defenses that may be raised in a theft case are similar to those in many other situations. Eyewitness misidentification, illegal search and seizure, failure to provide a Miranda warning, and others, are equally applicable when you are charged with theft. However, there are other defenses that are particularly applicable when the charge is theft or shoplifting:

  • Example 1. You are in a store, and you take an item intending to pay for it. Prior to leaving the store, you run into an old friend, and you chat for a while. You then leave the store, forgetting that you have the item with you. In fact, you did not intend to take the item without paying. That is a mistake, but it’s not a crime.
  • Example 2. You take an item to the cash register, the tag is scanned, and a price of $5 comes up. The tag had been switched, and the actual price of the item is $50. You were not the person who switched the tag, a fact that may be apparent upon a review of the stores surveillance videos. You did not commit a crime.
  • Example 3. You are charged with theft of an item the police say is worth $1,500. In fact, it is worth $700. Your charge is a felony, but you should have been charged with a misdemeanor.

Theft Defense Attorneys in Arizona

Theft may seem to be a simple subject, but it is not. There are numerous different types of theft. The charges against you, and the penalties you face are a function of a number of different factors, including the value of the property, the type of property, the circumstances of the alleged theft, your prior criminal history, and more. Don’t leave your future to chance. Contact Castañeda Law.

Call us at (602) 560-3131 for a consultation

Contact Castañeda Law for a consultation


4001 N 3rd St. Suite 405, Phoenix, AZ 85012
(602) 560-3131


999 18th St., Suite 3000, Denver CO 80202
(303) 386-7136


Castañeda Law is a criminal and immigration law firm with offices in Arizona and Colorado.

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