Alabama Petty Theft and Shoplifting Laws

Learn how quickly theft adds up to a felony offense in Alabama.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated February 09, 2024

Under Alabama's law, the crime of theft occurs when someone takes another's property or services without authorization and with intent to deprive the owner of their property or services. Taking another's property or services can occur physically or by using deceptive measures. It's also theft to receive stolen property or take lost property without using reasonable measures to find the owner.

How Alabama Classifies Theft Offenses

Similar to most states, Alabama classifies the offense of theft based on the value of the property involved and, in some cases, the circumstances or type of property involved. Penalties range from a class A misdemeanor to a class B felony.

In addition to theft of property or services, Alabama law provides specific penalties for other types of theft, including theft of trademarks or trade secrets, cargo, cable television or satellite reception, and gasoline, among others. Check the Alabama Code or consult an attorney for questions related to specific theft charges.

What Are the Penalties for Theft Crimes in Alabama?

Alabama divides most theft offenses into four degrees with first degree being the most serious and fourth degree the least serious. Below are the penalties for the following offenses:

  • theft of property
  • theft of services
  • receiving stolen property, and
  • theft of lost property.

Fourth-Degree Misdemeanor Theft in Alabama

The lowest theft offense level is fourth-degree theft—a class A misdemeanor in Alabama. Fourth-degree theft involves stealing property or services valued at or under $500. Class A misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to one year's incarceration, a fine of $6,000, or both.

Third-Degree Felony Theft in Alabama

If the value of the property or services involved is more than $500 but less than $1,500, the offense constitutes third-degree theft. Theft of a credit or debit card—regardless of value—is also theft in the third degree. Under Alabama law, third-degree theft is a class D felony in Alabama and carries up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $7,500, or both.

Second-Degree Felony Theft in Alabama

A person who steals property or services valued between $1,500 and $2,500 commits second-degree theft, a class C felony in Alabama. Second-degree theft also applies to theft of the following items (without regard to value): firearms, certain controlled substances, and livestock.

Class C felonies can be punished by up to 10 years' in prison, a $15,000 fine, or both.

First-Degree Felony Theft in Alabama

If the value of the property involved is greater than $2,500, Alabama law considers the offense to be first-degree theft—a class B felony. Theft of a motor vehicle (any value) is also first-degree theft.

Class B felony convictions in Alabama can result in a term of imprisonment ranging from a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 20 years. In addition, the sentence may include a fine of up to $30,000.

Restitution for Theft Convictions in Alabama

On top of a possible prison sentence and fines, a judge must hold a hearing to determine the monetary losses a victim suffered due to the crime. This restitution award goes straight to the victim to compensate for their losses.

(Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6 to 13A-5-12; 13A-8-2 to 13A-8-19, 15-18-67 (2024).)

Enhanced Penalties for Theft Convictions in Alabama

Alabama law increases the penalties for habitual (repeat) felony offenders. The length of the enhanced penalty depends on the number of past convictions and the felony offense level for the current offense.

Second felony. For a second felony conviction, the sentence is raised one level—for instance, a class B felony increases to a class A felony. This penalty increase applies only to current offenses classified as class A, B, or C felonies.

Third felony. A person with two prior felony offenses faces the following minimum prison terms: 10 years for a class C felony, 15 years for a class B felony, and 99 years for a class A felony.

Fourth felony. A fourth felony offense results in minimum prison terms of 15 years for a class C felony, 20 years for a class B felony, and life for a class A felony.

Class D felony with prior convictions. When the current offense is a class D felony and the person has two or more class A or B felony convictions or three or more felonies in general, the penalty increases to a Class C felony.

(Ala. Code § 13A-5-9 (2024).)

Defenses to Theft Offenses in Alabama

Under Alabama law, it's a defense to a theft-related offense that the person honestly believed, at the time of the alleged offense, they had a valid claim to the property or services taken. If the jury or judge sitting without a jury finds the defense credible, and as a result cannot conclude that every element of the charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the result should be a verdict of not guilty. (Ala. Code § 13A-8-12 (2024).)

Shoplifting Offenses in Alabama

Shoplifters can be punished by both criminal and civil penalties.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting in Alabama

Shoplifting is considered theft of property in Alabama and carries the same penalties as listed above.

Civil Penalties for Shoplifting in Alabama

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits a shoplifting theft offense can be held civilly liable under Alabama law. The offender can be ordered to:

  • reimburse the store owner for the full retail value of the shoplifted property, if the property is no longer in a sellable condition,
  • reimburse the store owner for up to $200 in expenses incurred in trying to recover the shoplifted property, and
  • pay up to $1,000 to cover the store owner's reasonable attorney's fees and court costs in bringing the civil action.

If the shoplifter is a minor younger than 19, the parents or legal guardians are responsible for the above damages. (Foster parents are not liable.)

(Ala. Code § 6-5-271 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face theft charges, speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, defend your rights, and raise a solid defense. Any conviction—even a misdemeanor—carries consequences beyond a criminal conviction. A criminal record can impact your ability to get a job, loan, or housing. Make sure to consult an attorney about the current charges and how a criminal record can impact your future.

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