Iowa Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws
Similarly, if a person commits aggravated theft, and has a previous conviction for aggravated theft, robbery, or extortion, the person will be charged with a Class D felony rather than an aggravated misdemeanor.
Defining Theft in Iowa
Under Iowa law, a person commits theft when he or she does any of the following:
- takes possession or control of another person’s property with intent to deprive the person of that property
- misappropriates, misuses, disposes, or conceals the property of another
- obtains labor, services, or property by deception
- exercises control over stolen property (when the person knows or has good reason to believe the property is stolen)
- writes bad checks
- obtains public utility, telephone service, or cable service through an unauthorized connection to the service
- accessing a computer knowingly and without authorization, or
- intentionally fails to return video rental property. (Iowa Code § 714.1.)
Classification and Punishment for Theft in Iowa
Like many states, Iowa classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the property or services taken. Let’s take a more detailed look at each level of theft under Iowa law.
Simple Misdemeanor Theft. The theft of property valued at no more than $200 is theft in the fifth degree, a simple misdemeanor under Iowa law. This level of theft is sometimes known as "petty theft," and is the lowest level degree of theft in Iowa. (Iowa Code § 714.2(5).)
A person convicted of a simple misdemeanor can receive a sentence of a fine ranging from $65 to $625 and incarceration for not more than 30 days. (Iowa Code § 903.1(1)(a).)
Serious Misdemeanor Theft. Theft of property with a value ranging between $200 and $500 is theft in the fourth degree, which is classified as a "serious misdemeanor" under Iowa law. (Iowa Code § 714.2(4).)
A person convicted of a serious misdemeanor will be fined at least $315 but not more than $1,875. In addition, the court may order a term of imprisonment of no more than one year. (Iowa Code § 903.1(1)(b).)
Aggravated Misdemeanor Theft. Theft of property valued at more than $500, but not more than $1,000 is theft in the third degree, which is an "aggravated misdemeanor." (Iowa Code § 714.2(3).)
Theft of any property valued at no more than $500 will be bumped up to an aggravated misdemeanor if the offender has two previous theft convictions.
Likewise, a person who commits simple misdemeanor assault after removing, concealing, or attempting to remove property valued at less than $200 from a store without paying for the property is guilty of aggravated theft, which is an aggravated misdemeanor under Iowa law. For an aggravated misdemeanor, the maximum penalty shall be a term of imprisonment not to exceed two years, as well as a fine ranging between $625 and $6,250. (Iowa Code § 903.1(2).)
Class D Felony Theft. Theft of property valued at between $1,000 and $10,000, or the theft of most motor vehicles, is theft in the second degree, a class D felony. (Iowa Code § 714.2(2).)
A Class D felon, as long as not an habitual offender, shall receive a sentence of confinement of no more than five years, and a fine in the amount of at least $750 but not more than $7,500. (Iowa Code § 902.9(5).)
Class C Felony Theft. A theft offense is considered theft in the first degree, which is a Class C felony, in the following circumstances:
- the property taken is valued at greater than $10,000
- the property (of any value) is taken from the person of another, or
- the property is taken from a building which has been destroyed or left unoccupied because of natural disaster, civil unrest, bombing, or battle.
(Iowa Code § 714.2(1).) A Class C felon, so long as not an habitual offender, shall receive a sentence of confinement of no more than ten years, and a fine of at least $1,000 but not more than $10,000. (Iowa Code § 902.9(4).)
Civil Penalties for Theft in Iowa
A person who commits shoplifting may be civilly liable to the store owner for the following:
- the return of the merchandise (or the reimbursement of the purchase price of the merchandise)
- actual damages for any decrease in value of the merchandise returned, and
- the greater of $50 or actual costs -- not to exceed $200 -- incurred by the owner in recovering the merchandise or damages. (Iowa Code § 645.3.)
Effect of Prior Theft Conviction in Iowa
Any theft of property valued at not more than $500 will be bumped up to the offense of theft in the third degree if the offender has two prior theft convictions. (Iowa Code § 714.2(3).)
Similarly, if a person commits aggravated theft, and has a previous conviction for aggravated theft, robbery, or extortion, the person will be charged with a Class D felony rather than an aggravated misdemeanor. (Iowa Code § 714.3A) For more information about how prior theft convictions affect a subsequent theft charge, conduct your own legal research on the subject, or consult an experienced Iowa criminal defense attorney.