Minnesota Felony and Misdemeanor Theft

Learn how quickly theft can add up to a felony in Minnesota.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated January 05, 2024

Minnesota's theft laws cover a broad range of acts from stealing property or services to embezzling and swindling.

How Minnesota Law Defines Theft Crimes

A person can commit theft in Minnesota by:

  • stealing personal or real property, trade secrets, utilities, or services
  • shoplifting
  • swindling someone out of their property or services
  • finding lost property and not making a reasonable effort to find the owner
  • embezzling another's property
  • receiving stolen property
  • wrongfully obtaining public assistance, or
  • not paying someone their due wages.

The law defines property and services broadly. Property includes real or personal property, domestic animals, utilities, trade secrets, and documents of value. Services can include labor, professional services, transportation services, hotel and overnight accommodations, restaurant services, and entertainment services.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 256.98, 609.52. 609.53 (2024).)

How Minnesota Classifies and Punishes Theft Crimes

Like most states, Minnesota classifies theft crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. The penalties for theft depend on the value of the stolen items or services, the type of property stolen, or the circumstances involved. When charging a defendant, prosecutors can combine the value of items or services stolen within a six-month period by the defendant.

Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Theft in Minnesota

Theft of property or services valued at $500 or less typically carries misdemeanor penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. Penalties increase to a gross misdemeanor if the value of the property or services is more than $500 but not more than $1,000. Gross misdemeanor penalties include up to 364 days of jail time and a $3,000 fine. Stealing certain types of property increases the penalty (as described below).

Felony Theft in Minnesota

Minnesota has three felony theft levels with maximum penalties of up to 5, 10, or 20 years in prison.

5-Year Felony Theft

A person convicted of theft faces up to five years of prison time and a $10,000 fine if:

  • the value of the property or services is more than $1,000 but not more than $5,000
  • the property or services stolen was worth more than $500 and the defendant has a prior gross misdemeanor or felony theft conviction
  • the property stolen was worth less than $1,000 and represents public funds, a legal or court record, or loot stolen during a disaster or emergency
  • the property stolen was worth less than $1,000 and taken from a person or corpse, or
  • the property stolen was a vehicle or a Schedule III, IV, or V drug.

10-Year Felony Theft

Theft charges increase to a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $20,000 fine in the following cases:

  • the property or services stolen exceeds $5,000, or
  • the property stolen is a trade secret, explosive device, or a Schedule I or II controlled substance (except marijuana).

20-Year Felony Theft

A person convicted of theft under the following circumstances faces up to 20 years of prison time and a $100,000 fine:

  • the property is a firearm, or
  • the property or services is worth more than $35,000 and was stolen from a vulnerable adult or obtained through swindling, false pretenses, or certain types of fraud.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.52 (2024).)

Enhanced Penalties for Theft in Minnesota

Minnesota law contains several penalty enhancements for theft crimes. Below are a few examples.

Embezzle public funds. A person who embezzles public funds will face felony charges no matter the amount stolen.

Robbery proceeds. It's also a felony to receive stolen property worth $500 or more knowing it was obtained by robbery or a carjacking.

Risk of injury. A person who commits theft under circumstances that create a foreseeable risk of bodily harm will also face enhanced felony penalties. As an example, theft could create a risk of bodily harm if a person steals copper gas line pipes from a building, creating a risk of an explosion.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.52, 609.526, 609.54 (2024).)

Restitution and Civil Penalties for Theft Crimes in Minnesota

Judges typically order restitution in theft cases. This means a person convicted of theft, regardless of the amount involved, will need to compensate the victim for the harm done by the crime. Restitution is part of the criminal case.

Minnesota law also allows the owner of stolen property to seek damages from the thief in civil court. Here, the owner can get reimbursed for the value of the property stolen, plus punitive damages.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 604.14, 609.10, 609.52 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with theft, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal system, protect your rights, and defend your case.

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