Tennessee’s theft statute covers a broad range of prohibited conduct, including embezzlement, false pretenses, fraudulent conversion, larceny, receiving or concealing stolen property, and other similar offenses.
Under Tennessee law, theft occurs when a person takes someone else’s property without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property. This definition includes the crimes of larceny, embezzlement, receiving or concealing stolen property, and fraudulent conversion of property.
Tennessee also prohibits stealing services. A person commits theft of services in the following ways:
Let’s take a look at the classifications and penalties for offenses that fall under the theft statutes.
(Tenn. Code. §§ 39-14-103, -104 (2020).)
Similar to many states, Tennessee classifies theft offenses according to the value of the property or services involved in the offense.
Theft constitutes a Class A misdemeanor if the stolen property or services has a value of $1,000 or less. In such a case, the offender faces penalties of up to 11 months and 29 days of incarceration and a $2,500 fine.
A person commits a Class E felony when the value of the stolen property or services involved is more than $1,000 but less than $2,500. The punishment for a Class E felony includes imprisonment for one to six years and a $3,000 fine.
Theft becomes a Class D felony if the value of the property or services stolen is at least $2,500 but less than $10,000. A Class D felony carries two to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Stealing property or services valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000 results in a Class C felony. A guilty person is subject to three to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
An offender is guilty of a Class B felony when the value of the stolen property or services is $60,000 or more but less than $250,000. The defendant faces eight to 30 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
A person commits a Class A felony if the value of the stolen property or services is $250,000 or more. Such an offense is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
(Tenn. Code §§ 39-14-105, 40-35-111 (2020).)
Tennessee law provides both sentencing alternatives and enhancements for theft offenders.
Sentencing alternatives apply to offenders convicted of theft of property, services, or merchandise valued at less than $1,000. Examples of alternatives include payment of a fine or restitution only, a suspended sentence, work release, or a community-based alternative to incarceration.
Tennessee's criminal sentencing guidelines mandate progressively harsher punishments for people whose criminal history indicates they are a "multiple offender," "persistent offender," or "career offender." Instead of receiving the standard sentences (called Range I) listed above, these offenders face enhanced sentences found in Ranges II and III.
Multiple offenders. Defendants who face their third, fourth, or fifth felony may be classified as a multiple offenders. Judges must impose a sentence within Range II for multiple offenders.
Persistent offenders. Defendants who face their sixth or subsequent felony can be classified as a persistent offender. For these offenders, judges must impose a sentence within Range III.
Career offenders. Defendants who have received their seventh or subsequent felony may be classified as career offenders. Judges must impose the maximum sentence within Range III for career offenders.
(Tenn. Code §§ 40-35-104 to -108, -112, -122 (2020).)
Tennessee law provides for criminal and civil penalties when it comes to the crime of shoplifting.
Theft by shoplifting occurs when, intending to deprive the store owner of the full value of the goods, a person does any of the following:
Shoplifting crimes carry the same penalties for theft (described above) based on the value of the stolen goods. Additionally, a fifth or subsequent shoplifting offense within a two-year period increases the punishment by one classification. For instance, a Class A misdemeanor bumps up to a Class E felony. The court must also impose a minimum $300 fine.
Instead of criminal prosecution, the district attorney (prosecutor) may allow a retail merchant to sue for damages in civil court. This option only applies if the listed retail price of the stolen merchandise is less than $500.
Offenders who may be held civilly liable to the merchant owner include:
The civil penalties vary depending on whether the stolen merchandise was recovered and, if so, in what condition. Generally speaking, the merchant can recover two to three times the value of the stolen goods.
(Tenn. Code §§ 39-14-144, -146 (2020).)
If you have been charged with a theft-related crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney will guide you through the criminal court process and thoroughly discuss with you any potential defenses to your charges.