Louisiana criminal statutes define theft as the taking of anything of value that belongs to another person, either without consent or by fraudulent conduct. Any theft must involve the intent to deprive a person permanently (versus temporarily) of the property. (An example of a temporary taking would be joyriding in a vehicle.)
Many theft offenses will fall into the catch-all definition described above (including embezzlement, larceny, and theft by false pretenses), but Louisiana statutes also identify several specific types of theft. Here's a list of those offenses:
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:67 to 14:67.26 (2020).)
Many states classify theft crimes at different levels (such as petty theft or grand theft) and divide offenses into felonies and misdemeanors. Louisiana law takes a slightly different approach.
Louisiana increases the punishment for theft as the dollar value of the stolen property increases. But the law does not classify the offense as a misdemeanor- or felony-level offense. For each offense, the law sets the possible sentence in the statute. A criminal offense is a felony in Louisiana if it carries a sentence of death or imprisonment "with or without hard labor," which means the possibility of incarceration in state prison. Misdemeanors are any other crimes that do not qualify as felonies.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:2 (2020).)
Like most states, Louisiana sets the punishment for theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property. The lowest theft offense (property valued at less than $1,000) is a misdemeanor offense. The other offenses are felonies.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:67 (2020).)
Some types of theft carry more severe penalties if an offender has previous theft convictions. Below are a couple of examples.
Misdemeanor theft. Misdemeanor theft (property valued at less than $1,000) increases to a felony-level offense if the offender has two or more prior theft convictions. In that case, instead of the typical six-month sentence, the offender may receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than two years, a fine of not more than $2,000, or both.
Firearm theft. A person who commits a first offense for theft of a firearm can be sentenced to two to ten years' imprisonment. The second offense carries a penalty of five to 15 years' imprisonment, and a third or subsequent offense carries a 15- to 30-year sentence.
Habitual felony offender. A second or subsequent felony offense (of any kind) carries stiff enhanced penalties. The enhanced sentence depends on the number of prior felonies committed within the past five years and, in some cases, the type of felony (such as a violent felony or sex offense).
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:67; 14:67.15; 15:529.1 (2020).)
A person who steals merchandise from a store faces the theft penalties described above, as well as civil penalties.
Louisiana's law provides that the following acts show that a defendant intended to permanently deprive the store owner of the merchandise. (If you remember from above, an essential element of theft is intent to deprive another permanently of the property.)
Shoplifting is considered theft and carries the penalties listed above that are based on the value of the property stolen.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2799.1 (2020).)
If you've been charged with theft, speak to a criminal defense attorney. Even a misdemeanor theft record can have significant, long-term consequences. A conviction record can result in a harsher sentence for a future crime and makes it more difficult to get a job, housing, and loans. An experienced lawyer can assist you in navigating the criminal justice process and help protect your rights.