Theft Defined Under New Hampshire Law
According to New Hampshire criminal statutes, theft is committed when a person obtains or exercises unauthorized control over property that belongs to someone else. The offender must act with the intent of depriving the owner of the property. New Hampshire statutes call this crime “theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.” (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 637:3.)
New Hampshire laws also identify a number of specific theft-related offenses. Here’s a list of a few (with a citation to the relevant statute):
- shoplifting (or willful concealment of goods) (§ 637:3-a.)
- theft by deception (§ 637:4)
- theft by extortion (§ 637:5)
- theft of lost property (§ 637:6)
- receiving stolen property (§ 637:7)
- theft of services (§ 637:8)
- unauthorized use of propelled vehicle or rented property (§ 637:9.)
Classification of Theft Offenses and Penalties in New Hampshire
Like most states, New Hampshire classifies theft offenses according to the dollar value and/or type of property involved in the offense. Let’s take a closer look at the different levels of theft in New Hampshire, as well as the penalties assigned to each classification.
Class A Misdemeanor Theft. Theft constitutes a class A misdemeanor in New Hampshire if the value of the property or services stolen does not exceed $1,000. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 637:11(III).)
This is the least serious level of theft in New Hampshire, and it is often referred to as petty theft. But keep in mind that a theft offense at this level could end up being charged as a felony if other aggravating circumstances exist, i.e., if the offender used a firearm while carrying out the theft, or if the offender has multiple prior theft-related convictions within the last 36 months.
In New Hampshire, a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $2,000. (§ 651:2(II)(c), 651:2(IV)(a).)
Class B Felony Theft. Theft will be charged as a class B felony in the state of New Hampshire if the value of the property or services exceeds $1,000, but is less than $1,500.
In addition, a theft offense that might ordinarily be considered a class A misdemeanor (see above) will be bumped up to a class B felony charge when:
- the offender has twice before been convicted of theft as a felony or class A misdemeanor
- the property is stolen with the intent to resell or distribute
- the property is stolen from three separate business establishments within a 24-hour period
- the person has had two prior convictions for willful concealment, or shoplifting, within 36 months of the present theft conviction
- the theft is committed through extortion and involves certain factual circumstances, or
- the stolen property received consists of goods or merchandise in quantities that would not normally be purchased for personal use or consumption. (§ 637:11(II).)
A class B felony carries a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years. (§ 651:2(II)(b), 651:2(IV)(a).) A person who commits a class B felony also may face a fine -- in addition to any civil penalty allowed by law -- of no more than $4,000. (§ 651:2(IV)(a).) In the case of theft, a court can order an offender to pay a fine in an amount that is not more than twice the value of the stolen property. (§ 651:2(IV)(c).)
Class A Felony Theft. Theft is considered a class A felony in New Hampshire when:
- the value of the property or services exceeds $1,500, or
- the property stolen is a firearm, or
- the offender is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the theft. (§ 637:11(I).)
A class A felony carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 15 years. (§ 651:2(II)(a), 651:2(IV)(a).) A person who commits a class A felony also may face a fine -- in addition to any civil penalty allowed by law -- of no more than $4,000. (§ 651:2(IV)(a).) In the case of theft, a court can order an offender to pay a fine in an amount that is not more than twice the value of the stolen property. (§ 651:2(IV)(c).)
Effect of Prior Conviction on Theft Charges in New Hampshire
If a person commits two shoplifting (or willful concealment) offenses within a 36-month period, a third willful concealment offense committed within that same 36-month window will be charged as a class B felony, rather than a misdemeanor. (§ 637:11(II)(g).)
In addition (and as discussed above), a theft offense that might ordinarily be considered a class A misdemeanor will be bumped up to a class B felony charge if the offender has twice before been convicted of theft as a felony or class A misdemeanor.
Civil Penalties for Theft Charges in New Hampshire
In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in New Hampshire may be held civilly liable to the store owner for:
- civil damages up to $400, plus
- the stolen merchandise, or its value if the merchandise has been damaged or is no longer sellable.
Typically, the offender must pay the store owner for these civil damages within 60 days of the offense, and the parties can enter into a settlement agreement for the amount of damages owed. (§ 544-C:1.)