Louisiana Laws on Theft and Shoplifting

The penalties for theft increase as the value of the stolen property increases. Learn about Louisiana's theft thresholds and penalties.

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).)

Classification and Punishment of Theft in Louisiana

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.

Classification

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).)

Punishment

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.

  • For theft of property valued at less than $1,000, the offender can receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than six months, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.
  • For theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $5,000, the offender can receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than five years, a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.
  • For theft of property valued at more than $5,000 but less than $25,000, the offender can receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than ten years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.
  • For theft of property valued at $25,000 or more, the offender can receive a sentence of imprisonment of not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both.

(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:67 (2020).)

Enhanced Penalties for Repeat Offenses

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).)

Shoplifting Penalties

A person who steals merchandise from a store faces the theft penalties described above, as well as civil penalties.

Criminal 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.)

  • intentionally concealing merchandise
  • altering or removing a price tag or other price marking
  • switching packaging, or
  • placing an item in a container or bag to avoid theft detection.

Shoplifting is considered theft and carries the penalties listed above that are based on the value of the property stolen.

Civil Penalties

In addition to the criminal penalties, a person who steals goods from a store or merchant can be held civilly liable to the merchant for the following damages:

  • the retail value of the merchandise taken, if not recovered in sellable condition, and
  • an additional penalty ranging from $50 to $500.

(La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2799.1 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

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.

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