North Dakota Misdemeanor and Felony Theft and Shoplifting Laws

Like many states, North Dakota classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services—and, in some cases, according to the type of property or the circumstances surrounding the theft.

North Dakota's theft statute covers a broad range of prohibited conduct, including theft of property or services, fraud, embezzlement, extortion, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting.

Theft Defined Under North Dakota Law

In North Dakota, theft occurs when a person knowingly does any of the following with the intent to deprive the owner of their property or services:

  • takes or exercises unauthorized control over the property or services of another
  • obtains property or services of another by deception or by threat
  • diverts services to the benefit of someone not entitled to them, or
  • receives or disposes of stolen property.

Types of Theft

North Dakota identifies a number of specific methods of committing theft, including:

  • theft by taking
  • theft by extortion or fraud
  • embezzlement
  • obtaining property or services by false pretenses
  • blackmail
  • receiving stolen property
  • misappropriation of public funds
  • theft of lost or misdelivered property
  • swindling, and
  • misapplication of entrusted property.

Key Elements of Theft

While people often associate theft with stealing cars or money, theft encompasses a broad range of conduct and not just tangible property. For instance, it's theft to unlawfully connect to another's TV cable line, dine and dash, or accept and keep a misdelivered package without trying to find its owner. Here are the definitions of property and services that can be stolen.

Property or services. Property includes money, personal (tangible or intangible) or real property, contract rights, or any article, substance, or thing of value. Services refer to labor, professional service, transportation, telephone, mail or other public services, public utilities, hospitality services, admission to exhibitions, and the use of vehicles or other property.

When theft involves property, the prosecutor's job isn't necessarily to prove that a defendant intended to keep the property for oneself. Rather, the intent focuses on the loss or deprivation to the owner.

Intent to deprive. A person deprives another of their property in one of three ways by (1) withholding it from the owner permanently or for such an extended period of time that the owner loses a major portion of its economic value or benefit, (2) withholding property with the intent to return it only after receipt of a reward or other compensation, and (3) disposing of the property in a way that makes it unlikely the owner will be able to recover it.

(N.D. Cent. Code §§ 12.1-23-01, -02, -07, -10 (2021).)

Classification of Theft Offenses and Penalties

Like most states, North Dakota classifies its theft offenses according to the monetary value or type of property or services involved. The general tipping point from a misdemeanor to felony theft involves stolen property or services worth more than $1,000. But, in some instances, theft carries felony penalties regardless of value—examples include stealing firearms, vehicles, or drugs. Let's take a closer look at how this state defines and penalizes theft offenses.

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

An offender is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less and no other special circumstances apply (see penalties below). Certain circumstances, such as the use of threats or force, can lead to harsher charges and convictions. A class B misdemeanor carries up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

A class A misdemeanor theft covers several different types of theft—the most common of which involves stolen property or services when:

  • the value is between $501 to $1,000
  • the theft was committed by threat or through deception in a confidential or fiduciary relationship (fraud), or
  • the offender is a public servant or officer or employee of a financial institution, and the theft was committed in the course of official duties.

The punishment for these offenses includes up to 360 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Class C Felony Theft

Theft constitutes a class C felony when the value of the stolen property or services is $1,001 to $10,000 or if the property is any of the following:

  • firearm, ammunition, or explosive
  • motor vehicle
  • government record, banking instrument, or credit or debit card
  • livestock, or
  • a prescription drug.

A person who commits a class C felony faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Class B Felony Theft

Theft is a class B felony in North Dakota when:

  • the value of the property or services stolen is $10,001 to $50,000, or
  • the property is taken through threat to commit a felony.

A conviction for a class B felony subjects the guilty party to up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Class A Felony Theft

A person who steals property or services exceeding $50,000 in value is guilty of a class A felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

(N.D. Cent. Code §§ 12.1-23-05, 12.1-32-01 (2021).)

Shoplifting (Retail Theft) in North Dakota

Like many states, North Dakota's shoplifting laws provide for both criminal and civil penalties.

Criminal Penalties

The criminal penalties for shoplifting are based on the value of the stolen merchandise. Check out the above penalties and their monetary thresholds. Although some states treat shoplifting as a misdemeanor, it's easy to see how quickly shoplifting can become a serious felony in North Dakota. Stealing a smartphone worth more than $1,000 could subject an offender to a felony conviction.

A shoplifter might also face criminal charges by using a coated bag or another device to circumvent a store's security equipment. North Dakota punishes offenders who possess, use, manufacture, or distribute devices or tools that shield, deactivate, or remove a retailer's theft detection devices. These offenses range from class A misdemeanors to class C felonies.

Civil Penalties

On top of criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in North Dakota, or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting, might have to cough up a lot of money to the store owner in civil court. The law makes the defendant civilly liable to the store owner for the following damages:

  • the retail value of the merchandise
  • exemplary (extra or punitive) damages of not more than $250
  • court costs, and
  • reasonable attorneys' fees.

(N.D. Cent. Code §§ 12.1-23-13, 12.1-32-01, 51-21-05 (2021).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with theft, shoplifting, or a related offense, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can guide you through the criminal justice system, explain local court rules, and discuss potential defenses for your unique set of facts.

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