Indiana Felony and Misdemeanor Theft

Learn just how quickly theft adds up to a felony in Indiana.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated November 27, 2023

Indiana's theft laws include more than stealing personal property, such as a bike or phone. A person can steal assets, real property, services, or even contract rights. This article reviews Indiana's theft crimes and penalties.

Theft Crimes in Indiana

Under Indiana law, a person commits theft by intentionally exerting unauthorized control over another's property with the intent of depriving that person of their property or its use.

In other words, theft involves the taking, obtaining, concealing, or transferring of property:

  • without the property owner's consent
  • through means of deceit or threats, or
  • by misappropriating the property (such as embezzlement ).

The term "property" includes anything of value, such as real or personal property, money, labor, services, trade secrets, contract rights, public utilities (electricity, gas, oil, water), animals, and data.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-31.5-2-253, 35-43-4-1, 35-43-4-2 (2023).)

What Are the Penalties for Theft in Indiana?

Indiana classifies theft offenses based on the value and type of property stolen, the circumstances involved, and the offender's prior criminal history. Instead of the fine listed below, a judge can impose a fine amount that's equal to twice the property loss suffered as a result of the crime.

Level 5 Felony Theft

The highest theft level is a level 5 felony theft, which includes:

  • theft of property valued at $50,000 or more
  • theft of a firearm
  • theft of a valuable metal (such as copper wiring) that creates a substantial risk of bodily harm to others and either: (1) relates to transportation or public safety or (2) is taken from a health care facility, critical infrastructure facility, public utility, or telecommunications provider, and
  • a second or subsequent offense for theft of a motor vehicle or its parts (including catalytic converters).

A class 5 felony carries a fixed sentence term of one to six years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The advisory sentence is three years.

Level 6 Felony Theft

A person commits a level 6 felony by doing any of the following:

  • stealing property valued at $750 or more but less than $50,000, or
  • stealing a motor vehicle or motor vehicle parts (including catalytic converters).

The law also bumps up a misdemeanor theft offense to a level 6 felony if the person has a prior conviction for theft, criminal conversion, burglary, or robbery.

A conviction for a class 6 felony includes a fixed term of six months to 2 ½ years' incarceration (with an advisory sentence of one year) and a fine of up to $10,000. A court may reduce a level 6 felony to a class A misdemeanor under certain circumstances.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

All other thefts fall to a class A misdemeanor. Basically, this includes most first-time theft offenses where the property isn't a firearm, motor vehicle, or motor vehicle part or the value of the property is less than $750. A person convicted of a class A misdemeanor faces up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

(Ind. Code. §§ 35-4-4-2, 35-50-3-2, 35-50-3-6, 35-50-3-7, 35-50-5-2 (2023).)

Habitual Offender Sentencing Enhancements in Indiana

Indiana law tacks on an additional, mandatory sentence term for "habitual" felony offenders—generally, offenders who have committed two or more felony offenses in the past 10 years. For persons convicted of a level 5 or 6 felony, the court must add between three and six years to the underlying sentence term.

(Ind. Code § 35-50-2-8 (2023).)

Civil Liability for Theft in Indiana

In many states, a retailer who suffers losses due to shoplifting may bring a civil action against a shoplifter to recoup the losses. Indiana's law is much broader and allows any victim of theft to seek treble (triple) damages against the offender in civil court. In addition, the victim can be awarded costs (of filing the lawsuit), attorneys' fees, and court travel costs.

Shoplifting: Retailer's Loss

In a shoplifting case, the retailer is presumed (by law) to have lost a minimum of $100, regardless of whether the stolen property is returned to the retailer or the property stolen is valued at less than $100.

Theft at the Pump (Motor Fuel)

A person who doesn't pay for motor fuel taken from the pump is liable to the gas or service station for the total pump price, plus a $50 service charge.

(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 24-4.6-5-4, 34-24-3-1, 34-24-3-2 (2023).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you've been charged with a theft offense, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney will help you navigate the criminal justice system, protect your rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome. Be sure to ask your attorney about the immediate and future consequences of a theft conviction. A criminal record for theft can make it difficult to get a job, housing, or loan in the future.

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