Missouri Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

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Defining Theft Under Missouri Law

A person commits theft under Missouri law by appropriating (taking) the property or services of another, with the intent to deprive the owner, without consent, or by deceit or coercion. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.030(1).) In other words, you commit theft by taking something that doesn't belong to you, if at the time of the offense you have no intention of returning the property.

Classification of Offenses and Punishment of Theft in Missouri

Under Missouri law, theft and related offenses are primarily referred to as “stealing.” Like many states, Missouri categorizes crimes as misdemeanors (which are less serious crimes) and felonies (which are more serious crimes). Whether a theft constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property taken or, in some cases, on the nature of the property. For instance, theft of potentially dangerous items -- such as firearms -- constitutes a felony under Missouri law, regardless of the value of the property.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft. If the value of the property or services stolen is less than $500, the theft is a class A misdemeanor under Missouri law. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.030.) Receiving stolen property that is valued at less than $500 is also a class A misdemeanor. (§ 570.080(3).) Any other theft-related offense that does not have an explicitly stated classification also constitutes a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor carries a term of imprisonment of no more than one year, plus a fine of no more than $1,000. (§§ 558.011, 560.016.)

Class D Felony Theft. It is a class D felony if a person steals an animal belonging to another person. A theft is also a class D felony if, within the previous 10 years, the offender has two or more convictions for theft-related offenses that occurred on separate occasions. (§ 570.040.) A class D felony carries a term of imprisonment of not more than four years, plus a fine of not more than $5,000 or an amount that is no more than twice the amount of the offender's gain from the theft -- up to a maximum of $20,000. (§§ 558.011, 560.011.)

Class C Felony Theft. Theft is considered a class C felony under the following circumstances:

  • the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or more, but less than $25,000
  • the property is taken from the person of the victim, or
  • the property is one of the following items:

    • motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft
    • firearm
    • explosive weapon
    • credit card
    • U.S. flag used for display
    • original copy of a legislative instrument such as an act, bill, or resolution
    • original copy of a court or historical document
    • voter registration book or list
    • livestock
    • will or unrecorded property deed
    • controlled substance
    • certain live fish, livestock, or captive wildlife, or
    • chemicals used in the manufacture of amphetamine or methamphetamine, such as anhydrous ammonia or ammonium nitrate.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.030.) Receiving stolen property also is classified as a class C felony if it involves property valued at $500 or more, an explosive weapon, or if the offender is a dealer in the type of stolen goods involved. (§ 570.080(3).) 

Conviction of a class C felony can result in a term of imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than seven years, plus a fine of no more than $5,000, or an amount that is no more than double the amount of the offender's gain through commission of the theft -- up to $20,000. (§§ 558.011, 560.011.)

Class B Felony Theft. Under Missouri law, theft constitutes a class B felony if the value of the property or services stolen is $25,000 or more. A class B felony carries a term of imprisonment of not less than five and not more than 15 years. (§ 558.011.)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Missouri

In addition to any criminal penalties, a person who steals merchandise from a store in Missouri will be civilly liable to the store owner for the following:

  • the full retail value of the merchandise taken
  • any proven incidental costs to the store owner of no more than $100
  • a penalty payable to the store owner of not less than $100 and not more than $250, and
  • all court costs and reasonable attorney fees incurred by the store owner.

If the person who stole the merchandise is a minor, the parent or guardian who has physical custody of the minor is civilly liable to the store owner for the same damages listed above. A parent or guardian is not liable for civil damages if the parent or guardian has not had physical custody of the child for one year or more. (§ 570.087(2), (3).)

Furthermore, a person who steals a shopping cart from a store is civilly liable to the store owner for actual damages caused by the theft, a penalty of $100, and all reasonable court costs and attorney fees. (§ 570.087(4).)

Defenses to Theft Under Missouri Law

It is a defense to theft under Missouri law that, at the time of the offense, the person had an honest belief of entitlement to the allegedly stolen property, or had an honest belief that the owner of the property, if present, would have consented to the person’s appropriation of the property. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.070(1).)

Effect of Prior Convictions on Theft Charges in Missouri

If a person has two or more previous convictions of theft-related offenses -- committed on separate occasions -- within 10 years of a subsequent theft offense, that subsequent offense will be charged as a class D felony. However, if the subsequent theft offense involves a motor vehicle, the person will be charged with a class B felony. This is the case whether the previous theft-related convictions came under Missouri law, the laws of another state, or federal law. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.040.)

by: , J.D.

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