Defining Theft Under Wyoming Law
Wyoming refers to the crime of theft and most theft-related offenses as “larceny.” According to applicable criminal statutes, larceny is committed in the state of Wyoming by “a person who steals, takes and carries, leads or drives away property of another with intent to deprive the owner or lawful possessor.” (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-402.)
Wyoming laws also identify other, more specific types of larceny, including:
- wrongful taking or disposing of property (§ 6-3-403.)
- shoplifting (§ 6-3-404.)
- leaving a restaurant or hotel without paying (§ 6-3-406.)
- obtaining property by false pretenses (§ 6-3-407.)
- theft of services (§ 6-3-408.), and
- fraudulently obtaining telecommunication services (§ 6-3-409.)
Theft Offenses and Penalties in Wyoming
Wyoming law classifies most larceny crimes according to the value of the property or services taken. In some cases, offenses are defined according to the type of property involved, regardless of its value. Following is a closer look at different levels of theft in Wyoming law, starting with misdemeanor larceny or theft (also commonly known as petty theft).
Misdemeanor Theft/Larceny. If the value of the property or services stolen is less than $1,000, theft in Wyoming is a misdemeanor. This level of theft is punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months, a fine of not more than $750.00, or both. (Wyo. Stat. Ann.§ 6-3-402.) The same punishment also applies to shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor under the same circumstances as theft or larceny in terms of property value.
Felony Theft/Larceny. If the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000.00 or more, or if the property stolen is livestock of any value, theft in Wyoming is a felony. Under Wyoming law, a felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years, a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both. (§ 6-3-402). The same punishment also applies to shoplifting, which is a felony under the same circumstances as theft or larceny in terms of property value. Additionally any person who alters or removes a price tag in order to obtain merchandise at a lower cost than marked is guilty of a felony. (§ 6-3-404.)
Most other theft or larceny-related offenses defined under Wyoming law also follow the same classification scheme outlined above. In other words, whether a larceny offense constitutes a felony or misdemeanor typically depends on the value of the property involved. One exception to this general scheme is the crime of fraudulently obtaining telecommunications services, which is a misdemeanor under Wyoming law, regardless of the value of the services involved. (§ 6-3-409.) Likewise, the unlawful use of a theft detection shielding device is a misdemeanor under Wyoming law. (§ 6-3-411.)
Civil Penalties for Theft Under Wyoming Law
In addition to criminal penalties, a person over the age of 10 who commits shoplifting in Wyoming (or the parent or legal guardian of an unemancipated minor who commits shoplifting) can be held civilly liable to the store owner for:
- the return of the merchandise in its original condition, or damages equal to the full retail price
- a civil penalty of twice the amount of the full retail price of the merchandise (ranging from $50.00 to $1,000), and
- reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs associated with the civil lawsuit. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-127.)
In order to hold an offender civilly liable for theft, it is not necessary that the offender be convicted of or plead guilty to a crime. However, a store owner must notify law enforcement officials of his or her intent to seek civil damages stemming from a theft or larceny. The store owner then may bring the civil action against the offender in small claims court (assuming that the value of the claim falls within the jurisdictional limits of that court) or in any other appropriate court.
Effect of Prior Convictions on a Theft Charge in Wyoming
The theft statutes in Wyoming do not directly address the effect of prior convictions on a subsequent theft charge in the state. You can conduct your own legal research or speak to a Wyoming criminal law attorney in order to understand how a previous theft-related conviction (or any conviction on your criminal record) might impact a subsequent theft charge.