Iowa Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

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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.

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