When Is Stealing a Felony?

Felony Guide says that the difference between calling theft a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor deals with the value of the property that was stolen. If more than one object was stolen, the total value of all objects stolen is used to make the determination. However, extenuating circumstances, such as the criminal history of the thief, may make theft more likely to result in a felony charge.

According to Felony Guide, theft, which is defined as knowingly taking the property of someone else for any period of time, is a category of crime that includes embezzlement, grand theft auto, larceny and shoplifting.

When it comes to charging theft as a felony, different states set different minimums. In some instances, a value of $400 or $500 or more results in a felony charge. The value of the item or items stolen also determines whether the charge is petty theft or grand theft. FindLaw says petty theft is usually charged when the item stolen is between $500 and $1,000, with grand theft charged for stolen items valued at more than $1,000. A grand theft charge is more likely to result in the felon being sentenced to jail time, fines and restitution.

The specific item stolen also helps the court to decide if the charge is a felony. For instance, theft of a gun or new automobile is almost always automatically a felony, according to Felony Guide.