New Hampshire Misdemeanor and Felony Theft and Shoplifting Laws

New Hampshire’s theft statute covers a broad range of prohibited acts. Learn how quickly theft adds up to a felony.

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.

Theft Defined Under New Hampshire Law

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).)

Classification of Theft Offenses and Penalties in New Hampshire

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.

Misdemeanor Theft

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.

Class B Felony Theft

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:

  • the offender has two previous felony or class A misdemeanor theft convictions
  • the property is stolen with the intent to resell or distribute
  • the theft involves extortion and threat of physical harm, confinement, or restraint, or
  • the stolen property consists of goods or merchandise in quantities indicating commercial use.

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.

Class A Felony Theft

Theft is considered a class A felony in New Hampshire when:

  • the value of the property or services is over $1,500
  • the property stolen is a firearm, or
  • the offender is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the theft.

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.

Enhanced Penalties

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).)

Shoplifting (Retail Theft) Penalties

New Hampshire law provides for both criminal and civil penalties in retail theft-related offenses.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting

New Hampshire penalizes shoplifting-related offenses under several sections of the law.

Willful Concealment of Goods

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.

Retail Theft

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:

  • alters or switches any price tags
  • causes the register to reflect an incorrect price, or
  • moves items from one container to an incorrectly-priced container.

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:

  • the value of the stolen merchandise is more than $1,000 but less than $1,501
  • a person has stolen the merchandise from three separate businesses within a 72-hour period
  • the person has two prior convictions for felony or class A misdemeanor theft, or
  • the offender has two previous convictions for willful concealment committed within a 36-month period.

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.

    Other Shoplifting-Related Offenses

    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.

    Enhanced Penalty

    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).

    Civil Penalties for Shoplifting

    In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits willful concealment in New Hampshire may be held civilly liable to the store owner in civil court for:

    • civil damages up to $400, and
    • the stolen merchandise or its value if the merchandise has been damaged or is no longer sellable.

    (N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 544-C:1; 637:3, 637:10, 637:11; 651:6 (2020).)

    Talk to a Lawyer

    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.

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