Idaho Laws on Petit Theft, Grand Theft, and Shoplifting

Learn how quickly theft adds up to a felony in Idaho.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated December 30, 2023

Under Idaho law, a person commits theft by wrongfully taking, obtaining, or withholding another's property, with intent to deprive another of their property. What does this mean? We break it down in the next section.

Idaho's Definition of Theft

Like several states, Idaho combines most of its theft-related offenses—embezzlement, extortion, larceny, shoplifting, and others—into one general theft offense. A person can commit theft in any of the following ways:

  • taking another's property without authorization
  • stealing labor or services
  • using deception to take control over another person's property
  • embezzling money or property
  • using extortion (threats) to obtain another person's property
  • receiving or retaining stolen property
  • obtaining property by fraud, false promises, or misrepresentations
  • keeping lost property without trying to find the true owner, and
  • not returning a rental car or other rental equipment within 48 hours of it being due.

The term "property" means "anything of value" and includes money, real or personal property, labor or services, utilities (gas, electricity, water), and trade secrets.

(Idaho Code §§ 18-2401 to -2403 (2023).)

Examples of Theft Crimes in Idaho

Idaho's theft law covers a broad range of acts. A person can commit theft by stealing a smartphone, jewelry, or cash. It's also theft to take a car and sell it to a chop shop for parts. Splicing a cable line constitutes theft. A theft can also start with an authorized use that turns into an unauthorized use. For instance, it's theft for a son who is authorized to pay his mother's bills using her bank account to instead spend her money to buy a boat for himself.

How Idaho Classifies and Punishes Theft

Idaho has two major categories of theft: petit and grand theft. Petit theft, the least serious of the two, is a misdemeanor offense. Grand theft, the more serious of the two, is a felony-level offense. The category of theft and the penalty depend on one or more of the following factors—the type of property stolen, the value of the stolen property, or how the property was stolen.

What Is Considered Grand Theft in Idaho?

Grand theft constitutes a broad range of offenses, including:

  • any theft by extortion (threatening the victim with bodily harm, property damage, defamation, or other adverse consequences)
  • theft of property taken directly from the person
  • theft of any property valued at more than $1,000
  • theft of a public record, credit or debit card, financial account number, or any type of banking instrument
  • theft of a firearm
  • theft of livestock or other animal valued at over $150
  • theft of anhydrous ammonia, and
  • any series of small thefts that are part of a common scheme or plan or criminal episode.

What Are the Penalties for Grand Theft in Idaho?

A person who is convicted of grand theft faces the following felony penalties.

Extortion. A person who commits grand theft by extortion faces one to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Theft or killing of livestock. Grand theft involving stealing or killing livestock or any animal worth more than $150 is punishable by one to 14 years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both. When imposing a fine, the judge must impose at least the minimum fine of $1,000. Additionally, a person who steals livestock must pay civil damages to compensate the owner for their loss. (Idaho Code § 25-1910 (2023).)

All other grand thefts. A person who commits any other act of grand theft faces one to 14 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Enhanced penalties for repeat offenders. Idaho allows enhanced penalties for an offender convicted of a third felony. Called "persistent violators," a person faces a minimum of five years in prison and up to a life sentence.

What Is Considered Petit Theft in Idaho?

Petit theft (sometimes called petty theft) covers anything that isn't grand theft. For the most part, this means stealing property valued at $1,000 or less or livestock valued at $150 or less. But, as noted above, certain thefts (regardless of the amount involved) always constitute grand theft, such as theft by extortion, theft directly from a person, and theft of certain property regardless of value (firearms, financial instruments, and public records).

A person who commits petit theft is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

(Idaho Code §§ 18-2407, 18-2408, 19-2514 (2023).)

How Idaho Punishes Shoplifting

A person who commits shoplifting (also referred to as retail theft) faces both criminal penalties and civil liability.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting or Retail Theft

The crime of shoplifting—stealing or attempting to steal merchandise from a retail store—falls under the general definition and penalties for theft. Theft involving merchandise valued at less than $1,000 constitutes a misdemeanor. If the merchandise is worth $1,000 or more, a shoplifter faces felony penalties for grand theft.

Idaho has a separate offense for unlawfully using or possessing an anti-theft detection device (such as a coated bag or tool designed to avoid or remove alarm devices). A person who makes, sells, distributes, uses, or possesses with intent to use one of these devices commits a misdemeanor for a first offense. A second offense in five years constitutes a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

(Idaho Code § 18-2411 (2023).)

Civil Liability for Shoplifting or Retail Theft

Any person or the parent of a minor who knowingly shoplifts or commits retail theft is also liable to the store owner for civil damages. Shoplifting and retail theft include:

  • removing merchandise from a store without paying for it
  • concealing merchandise to avoid paying for it, or
  • altering, switching, or removing price tags or labels in an effort to purchase the merchandise at less than retail value.

The store owner can recover civil damages for the retail value of the merchandise, damages of $100 to $250, court costs, and attorneys' fees.

(Idaho Code §§ 48-701 to -705 (2023).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you face criminal theft charges, speak to a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights. Even if the charges seem minor, it's usually best to seek out a lawyer's advice. A criminal record for theft, even misdemeanor theft, can impact your ability down the road to get a job, rent an apartment, or get a loan.

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