Iowa’s theft law covers a broad range of conduct, including crimes commonly referred to as larceny, misappropriation, embezzlement, theft by deception or fraud, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting.
A person commits theft in Iowa by stealing cash, jewelry, or any other item. It's also theft to: take someone’s vehicle and abandon it in an old shed, deceive someone into transferring funds to another, accept a stolen smartphone, splice cable services from a neighbor, or misuse funds in an elderly parent’s bank account to take a lavish vacation.
Below we'll discuss the definition and penalties for theft and shoplifting in Iowa.
Under Iowa law, the definition of theft includes the following:
Permanent deprivation. Under the first definition, a prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to deprive the owner of their property “permanently.” A permanent deprivation can mean that the defendant doesn't intend to ever return the property, intends to retain it for an extended period of time, or intends to dispose of the property so it’s unlikely the owner can recover it. Basically, whatever the situation, the owner loses the benefit or value of their property.
(Iowa Code §§ 702.14, 714.1 (2020).)
Like many states, Iowa classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services. Theft involving property or services valued at $1,500 or less constitutes a misdemeanor, and anything over that amount raises the penalty to a felony. In addition to incarceration and fines, a judge can order the defendant to pay restitution (compensation) to the victim.
A person who steals property or services valued at no more than $300 commits a simple misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine ranging from $65 to $625.
Theft of property with a value ranging between $300 and $750 is classified as a serious misdemeanor. A person convicted of a serious misdemeanor faces a fine of $315 to $1,875 and up to a year in jail.
A person commits an aggravated misdemeanor by:
Third-degree theft can be punished by up to two years' incarceration and a fine between $625 and $6,250.
Class D felony penalties apply when a person steals property or services valued between $1,500 and $10,000 or a motor vehicle. Second-degree theft carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500.
The highest theft offense level—first-degree theft—involves any of the following:
A person convicted of first-degree theft faces a class C felony, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.
A person who commits a class C or D felony and has at least two prior felony convictions faces a minimum three-year sentence of incarceration.
(Iowa Code §§ 714.2, 902.8, 902.9, 903.1 (2020).)
Like many other states, shoplifters can face both civil and criminal penalties in Iowa.
Shoplifting falls under the definition of theft, with penalties based on the value of the merchandise involved (see penalties above). Aggravated penalties apply if the person commits an assault in the course of shoplifting $300 or less in merchandise.
Other shoplifting-related crimes include:
(Iowa Code §§ 711.3B, 714.7B (2020).)
A person who commits shoplifting may be civilly liable to the store owner for the following:
If the shoplifter was a minor younger than 18, the parents are liable for any judgment won in a shoplifting civil case. (Iowa Code §§ 645.1 to 645.3 (2020).)
If you've been arrested for, or charged with, theft or shoplifting, speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even misdemeanor charges can lead to serious consequences, including jail time, fines, and restitution. Plus, a theft conviction on your record can impact future sentencing decisions and present barriers to finding housing and employment. Speak with an attorney to understand your rights and help achieve the best outcome in your case.