Louisiana Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

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Defining Theft Under Louisiana Law

Louisiana criminal statutes defines theft as the taking anything of value which belongs to another person, either without the consent of the other person, or by fraudulent conduct. (La. Rev. Stat. 14:67(A).) Any theft must involve the intent to deprive the other person permanently of the property that is the subject of the taking.

Many theft offenses will fall into the catch-all definition described above, but Louisiana statutes also identify several specific types of theft. Here's a list of those offenses (with a citation to the relevant Lousiana Revised Statutes section in parentheses for those that want to do a little additional legal research):

  • theft of livestock (14:67.1.)
  • theft of animals (14:67.2.)
  • unauthorized use of bank or credit cards (14:67.3.)
  • theft of crawfish (14:67.5.)
  • theft of utility service (14:67.6.)
  • theft of petroleum products (14:67.7.)
  • theft of oil and gas equipment (14:67.9.)
  • theft of goods (shoplifting) (14:67.10.)
  • theft of an alligator (14:67.13.)
  • theft of a firearm (14:67.15.)
  • identity theft (14:67.16.)
  • theft of motor vehicle fuel (14:67.17.)
  • theft of a motor vehicle (14:67.26.)

Classification and Punishment of Theft in Louisiana

Many states classify theft crimes at different levels (such as Class A, B, or C) and divide offenses into felonies and misdemeanors. Louisiana law takes a slightly different approach. While Louisiana does provide for progressively more severe punishments based on the dollar value of the property that is the subject of the theft offense, there is no specific classification assigned to each theft offense. Rather, Louisiana law simply states that a criminal offense is a felony if it carries a sentence of death or imprisonment. (14:2.) On the other hand, a misdemeanor crime is simply any other crime that does not qualify as a felony. Therefore, all theft offenses theoretically can qualify as felony crimes under Louisiana law -- even the lowest level of theft, which is commonly known as petty theft.

Louisiana does set the punishment for theft offenses according to the value of the property involved in the theft offense. Here are the class:

  • For theft of property valued at less than $500, the offender will receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than six months, or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. (14:67(B)(3).)
  • For theft of property valued at more than $500, but less than $1,500, the offender will receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than five years, or a fine of not more than $2,000, or both. (14:67(B)(2).)
  • For theft of property valued at $1,500 or more, the offender will receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than ten years, or a fine of not more than $3,000, or both. (14:67(B)(1).)

Civil Liability for Theft in Louisiana

In addition to the criminal penalties outlined above, in Louisiana, a person who commits theft of goods from a store or merchant can be held civilly liable to the merchant for the following damages:

  • the retail value of the merchandise taken, if not recovered in sellable condition, and
  • an additional penalty ranging from $50 to $500. (9:2799.1.)

Effect of Prior Convictions on Theft Charges in Louisiana

Theft of property valued at less than $500, which usually receives the lightest punishment of all theft offenses in Louisiana, will be punished much more harshly if the offender has two or more prior theft convictions. In that case, instead of the typical six month maximum for imprisonment, the offender may receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than two years, or a fine of not more than $2,000 (instead of the typical cap of $1,000), or both. (14:67(B)(3).)

Some specific types of theft also carry more severe penalties if an offender has previous theft convictions. For instance, a person who commits theft of a firearm -- with no prior theft convictions on thier record -- will receive a sentence of imprisonment ranging from two to ten years, and a fine of nor more than $2,000. But for the same offense, a person with one previous conviction for theft of a firearm will receive a sentence of imprisonment ranging from five to 15 years, and a fine of no greater than $2,000. (14:67.15.)

by: , J.D.

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