Delaware Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

Definition of Theft in Delaware

A person commits theft in the state of Delaware when he or she “takes, exercises control over, or obtains" someone else's property, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841.)

Delaware law also identifies a number of specific theft offenses, including:

  • Organized retail crime ( § 841B)
  • Possession or theft of a prescription form or a pad ( § 841C)
  • Theft of lost or mistakenly delivered property ( § 842)
  • Theft of services ( § 845)
  • Extortion ( § 846)
  • Theft of rented property ( § 849)
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle ( § 853)
  • Identity theft ( § 854)

Classification and Punishment for Theft in Delaware

Like most states, Delaware classifies its theft offenses as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the dollar value of the property that is the subject of the theft. Delaware law also classifies some theft crimes based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, regardless of the value of the property involved. Let's take a closer look at how theft crimes are classified in Delaware.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft. In Delaware, theft is classified as a class A misdemeanor when the value of the property is under $1,500 (provided special circumstances aren't present; these are discussed below under "Class G Felony Theft"). Class A misdemeanor theft -- the lowest-level theft offense under Delaware law -- is commonly known as petty theft.

The sentence for a class A misdemeanor in Delaware may include up to one year of incarceration in the Department of Correction, and a fine of no more than $2,300. The court will also likely order full restitution to the victim for any monetary losses suffered because of the theft. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841.)

Most shoplifting offenses constitute class A misdemeanors, as they typically involve property valued at $1,500 or less. ( §840.) Delaware law defines shoplifting as occurring when, while in a store, a person:

  • intentionally removes any merchandise without paying
  • purchases merchandise using the credit or identity of another person without permission
  • conceals merchandise with the intent to steal it
  • changes a price tag or label of merchandise
  • removes merchandise from its container, or
  • uses any instrument to take merchandise. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 840.)

Class G Felony Theft. Where stolen property has a dollar value of $1,500 or more, theft is a class G felony in Delaware.

There are also two circumstances that will bump any theft up to a class G felony, regardless of the value of the property stolen: 1) any theft where the victim of the theft is 62 years of age or older, or 2) any theft where the victim is an "infirm adult" or a "disabled person" as defined under Delaware law.

Theft of a motor vehicle is also usually classified as a class G felony in Delaware. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841A.)

The sentence for a class G felony includes a term of imprisonment of no more than two years at the Department of Correction. The sentence also may include payment of a fine. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841.)

Shoplifting is a class G felony when merchandise shoplifted is worth $1,500 or more, or when the merchandise shoplifted comes from three or more separate stores in one continuing "spree," and the aggregate value of the goods stolen is $1,500 or more. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 840.)

Class E Felony Theft. If the property stolen has a dollar value of more than $50,000, but less than $100,000, theft is a class E felony in Delaware. The sentence for a class E felony can include a term of incarceration of no more than five years at the Department of Correction. The sentence also may include the payment of a fine. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841.)

Class C Felony Theft. If the property stolen is worth $100,000 or more, theft is a class C felony in Delaware, punishable by a term of imprisonment of no more than 15 years, and payment of a fine. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 841.)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Delaware

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in Delaware (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting) may be civilly liable for losses associated with the shoplifting incident. If, however, the store owner demands repayment from the offender (or the offender's legal guardian), and the offender pays the full retail value of the merchandise, plus a penalty in the amount of the merchandise’s value or $150, whichever is greater, the offender is entitled to a written release of civil liability. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 10 § 8143.)

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