Missouri Misdemeanor and Felony Theft: Laws and Penalties

Defining Theft Under Missouri Law

A person commits theft under Missouri law by appropriating (taking) the property or services of another, with the intent to deprive the owner, without consent, or by deceit or coercion. In other words, you commit theft by taking something that doesn't belong to you, if at the time of the offense you have no intention of returning the property. It's also a crime to receive property you know or believe is stolen.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.030 (2020).)

Classification of Offenses and Punishment of Theft in Missouri

Under Missouri law, theft and related offenses are primarily referred to as “stealing.” Like many states, Missouri categorizes crimes as misdemeanors (which are less serious crimes) and felonies (which are more serious crimes).

Whether a theft constitutes a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the property taken, the person's criminal history, and, in some cases, the type of property. For instance, theft of potentially dangerous items—such as firearms—constitutes a felony under Missouri law, regardless of the value of the property.

In Missouri, for a theft-related offense, a judge may order the fine listed in law or up to double what the offender gained in the offense.

Class A Felony Theft

Under Missouri law, it's a class A felony to steal certain property—a tank truck, tank trailer, rail tank car, bulk storage tank, field nurse, field tank, or field applicator—containing any amount of anhydrous ammonia (a chemical used to make methamphetamine).

The penalty for a class A felony is 10 to 30 years' incarceration or life imprisonment.

Class B Felony Theft

A person commits a class B felony by stealing property (other than those listed above) containing anhydrous ammonia. It's also a class B felony:

  • to steal property containing liquid nitrogen
  • to commit a second offense involving stealing livestock or captive wildlife valued at more than $3,000
  • to steal livestock valued at more than $10,000
  • to steal a motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft, when the person has been found guilty of two prior theft-related offenses in the past 10 years, or
  • to steal property from a financial institution.

A class B felony carries a term of imprisonment of five to 15 years.

Class C Felony Theft

Stealing property or services valued at $25,000 or more constitutes a class C felony.

Conviction of a class C felony carries a sentence of imprisonment of three to 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine.

Class D Felony Theft

Theft is considered a class D felony under the following circumstances:

  • the value of the property or services stolen is $750 or more but less than $25,000
  • the property is taken from the person of the victim, or
  • the property is one of the following items:
    • motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft
    • firearm or explosive weapon
    • controlled substance
    • credit card
    • U.S. flag used for display
    • original copy of a legislative instrument such as an act, bill, or resolution, or a court or historical document
    • voter registration book or list, a will, or an unrecorded property deed
    • certain live fish, livestock, or captive wildlife
    • ammonium nitrate
    • any material stolen with intent to make, test, or analyze amphetamine or methamphetamine, or
    • any wire, electrical transformer, or metallic wire used to transmit wire communications, conduct electricity, or transport combustible fuels.

A class D felony carries a term of imprisonment of not more than seven years, plus a fine of not more than $10,000.

Class E Felony Theft

Stealing an animal (other than those listed above) constitutes a class E felony that carries a maximum penalty of up to four years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The law also makes a person's fourth stealing offense in 10 years a class E felony.

Misdemeanor Theft

Misdemeanor theft in Missouri applies when stolen property or services are valued at less than $750 and the felony provisions above don't apply.

Class D misdemeanor. A first offense involving less than $150 worth of stolen property is a class D misdemeanor and subject to a $500 fine.

Class A misdemeanor. If the value of the property or services stolen is more than $150 but less than $750, the theft is a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor carries a term of imprisonment of no more than one year, plus a fine of no more than $2,000.

Any other theft-related offense that does not have an explicitly stated classification also constitutes a class A misdemeanor.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 570.030 (2020).)

Defenses to Theft Under Missouri Law

It's a defense to theft under Missouri law that, at the time of the offense, the person had an honest belief of entitlement to the allegedly stolen property, or had an honest belief that the owner of the property, if present, would have consented to the person’s appropriation of the property. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.070 (2020).)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Missouri

In addition to any criminal penalties, a person who steals merchandise from a store in Missouri will be civilly liable to the store owner for the following:

  • the full retail value of the merchandise taken
  • any proven incidental costs to the store owner of no more than $100
  • a penalty payable to the store owner of not less than $100 and not more than $250, and
  • all court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by the store owner.

If the person who stole the merchandise is a minor, the parent or guardian who has physical custody of the minor is civilly liable to the store owner for the same damages listed above. A parent or guardian is not liable for civil damages if the parent or guardian has not had physical custody of the child for one year or more.

Furthermore, a person who steals a shopping cart from a store is civilly liable to the store owner for actual damages caused by the theft, a penalty of $100, and all reasonable court costs and attorney fees.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.127 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with stealing, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can give you advice on how to protect your rights and help you navigate the criminal justice system. Being convicted of stealing, even misdemeanor stealing, carries consequences that extend beyond incarceration and fines. A criminal record can impact your ability to qualify for housing, loans, employment, and professional licenses.

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