New Hampshire's theft statute covers a broad range of prohibited acts, including theft of another's property or services, theft by deception or extortion, theft of lost property, receiving stolen property, embezzlement, and shoplifting.
New Hampshire law prohibits several acts that constitute theft. The following theft-related offenses have the same penalties.
Theft by authorized taking. Taking someone else's property without permission.
Theft by deception. Using lies or trickery to taking someone else's property without permission.
Theft by extortion. Obtaining someone else's property by threatening to harm someone's health, safety, business, career, reputation, or personal relationships.
Theft of lost property. Keeping someone else's property that was lost or delivered to the wrong recipient.
Receiving stolen property. Receiving, keeping, or throwing away someone else's property.
Theft of services. Getting services that require compensation but refusing to pay for them.
Misapplication of property. Receiving someone else's property with the purpose of making a specified payment or other disposition to a third person but instead keeping that property for one's self.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 637:3 and following (2020).)
Like most states, New Hampshire classifies theft offenses according to the dollar value or type of property or services involved in the offense. Let's take a closer look at the different levels of theft in New Hampshire, as well as the penalties assigned to each classification.
Theft constitutes an unclassified misdemeanor in New Hampshire if stolen property or services have a value of $1,000 or less. Such a theft may be charged as a class A or B misdemeanor. In most cases, prosecutors charge misdemeanor theft as a class B misdemeanor, which results in no jail time and a fine of up to $1,200.
However, the law provides for two instances in which the prosecutor may charge the crime as a class A misdemeanor: (1) where an act of violence or threat was involved, or (2) when the prosecutor feels the circumstances of the crime warrant a stiffer penalty. A person who commits a class A misdemeanor faces up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Theft is charged as a class B felony in the state of New Hampshire if the value of the property or services exceeds $1,000 but is less than $1,501.
In addition, a theft offense that might ordinarily be considered a misdemeanor (see above) will be bumped up to a class B felony charge when:
A class B felony carries a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years and a fine of up to $4,000. In the case of theft, a court can order an offender to pay a fine in an amount up to twice the value of the stolen property.
Theft is considered a class A felony in New Hampshire when:
A person who commits a class A felony is subject to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $4,000 or twice the value of the stolen property.
New Hampshire imposes enhanced penalties if an offender commits a theft against a victim who is 65 or older or has a physical or mental disability, and the offender intended to take advantage of the victim's special circumstances. A defendant convicted of felony theft is subject to ten to 30 years in prison. If the conviction is for misdemeanor theft, the punishment can be increased to two to five years in prison.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 637:11, 651:2, 651:6 (2020).)
New Hampshire law provides for both criminal and civil penalties in retail theft-related offenses.
New Hampshire penalizes shoplifting-related offenses under several sections of the law.
A person who conceals goods or merchandise while still on the store's property commits an unclassified misdemeanor. Unclassified misdemeanors are often charged as class B misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $1,200.
If the person removes the goods from the store without paying, theft penalties apply based on the item's value. Theft penalties also apply if the person:
Misdemeanor. Theft of merchandise valued at $1,000 or less constitutes an unclassified misdemeanor.
Class B felony. Retail theft is considered a class B felony when:
A class B felony carries a maximum prison term of seven years and a fine of up to $4,000.
Class A felony. Theft of merchandise valued at over $1,500 constitutes a class A felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.
New Hampshire also prohibits the following shoplifting-related offenses.
Theft detection devices. It's unlawful to use, make, or sell any type of device intended to shield merchandise from detection by a theft alarm sensor. This offense is an unclassified misdemeanor with possible penalties of up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine, depending on how the prosecutor charges the offense.
Fraudulent retail transactions. The law prohibits having, using, making, altering, or reproducing a fraudulent sale receipt for the purpose of depriving the retail store of goods or merchandise. Such an offense is an unclassified misdemeanor. If an offender has five or more receipts or possesses a device used to make fraudulent sale receipts, they are guilty of a class B felony and face up to seven years in prison and a $4,000 fine.
A shoplifter who purposely activates an alarm system to avoid getting caught or cause a distraction will face enhanced criminal penalties ranging from two to 30 years in prison (see "Enhanced Penalties" above).
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 544-C:1; 637:3, 637:10, 637:11; 651:6 (2020).)
If you have been arrested for or charged with a theft-related offense in New Hampshire, contact a local criminal defense attorney today. An experienced attorney will discuss possible defenses with you and explain the court process in your jurisdiction.