Utah Laws on Misdemeanor and Felony Theft and Retail Theft

Like many other states, Utah classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services—and, in some cases, according to the type of property taken.

Utah's theft statutes cover a broad range of prohibited conduct, including theft of property or services, receiving stolen property, fraud, extortion, and theft of a rental vehicle.

Definition of Theft Under Utah Law

Under Utah law, a person commits theft by gaining unauthorized control over the property or services of another with the intent to deprive the owner of their property or compensation for services. Let's break down this definition.

Types of Theft

A person can gain unauthorized control over another's property or services in multiple ways, such as:

  • theft by taking or wrongful appropriation
  • theft by deception, extortion, threat, or force, or
  • receiving stolen property.

In addition to theft of property and services, Utah's criminal statutes identify a number of specific types of theft, including:

  • theft of motor vehicle fuel
  • theft of lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered property
  • theft of utility or cable television services, and
  • theft by someone having custody of property pursuant to repair or rental agreement.

Key Elements and Definitions of Theft

As you can see from the various types of theft described above, theft involves more than just stealing personal property and money. The definition of property broadly covers anything of value. And, services encompass far more than merely public utilities or the hospitality service industry.

Property or Services

The law defines property to include real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, captured or domestic animals and birds, trade secrets, and titles or certificates representing rights to property, labor, or services, among other things of value.

Services refer to labor, professional services, public utilities, transportation services, restaurant services, accommodations (such as hotels), rental use of equipment, tools, or vehicles, and admission tickets or event charges.

For instance, a person commits theft by stealing someone's vehicle, dining and dashing at a restaurant, or taking a cab ride and not paying the driver.

Intent to Deprive the Owner

It's also helpful to understand a key element of theft—the intent to deprive an owner of their property. This intent goes beyond intending to keep the property for oneself and instead focuses on the owner's loss. A person deprives another of their property by:

  • withholding it permanently or for such an extended period of time or under such circumstances that the owner loses a substantial portion of its economic value, use, or benefit
  • returning the property only if the owner pays, or
  • disposing of the property in a manner in which it's unlikely the owner will ever recover it.

For example, a person who steals someone's vehicle intending to keep it or strip it for parts commits theft, as does the person who steals the car and abandons it in a shed in another part of the country.

(Utah Code §§ 76-6-401, -404 to -410 (2021).)

Classification and Penalties for Theft in Utah

As is the case in many states, Utah classifies its theft offenses primarily according to the value of the property or services involved in the offense. A few theft offenses are categorized according to the type of property taken, regardless of value. Let's take a closer look at each Utah theft offense in detail.

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

An offender commits a class B misdemeanor theft if the value of the property or services stolen is less than $500 and no other special circumstances apply. Certain circumstances, such as repeat offenses, can result in harsher penalties. A class B misdemeanor carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

A class A misdemeanor theft covers a couple of different scenarios:

  • the value of the stolen property or services is between $500 and $1,500, or
  • the value of the stolen property or services is less than $500, and the offender has two previous convictions in the past ten years for any theft, robbery, or burglary with the intent to commit theft.

The punishment for these offenses includes up to 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Third-Degree Felony Theft

Theft constitutes a third-degree felony theft in the following manner:

  • the value of the stolen property or services is between $1,500 and $5,000, or
  • the value of the stolen property or services is between $500 and $1,500, and within the past ten years, the offender has either one felony conviction or two misdemeanor convictions for theft, robbery, fraud, or burglary with intent to commit theft.

A person who commits a third-degree felony theft faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Second-Degree Felony Theft

Theft becomes a second-degree felony in Utah when:

  • the property or services are worth more than $5,000
  • the stolen property is a firearm or operable motor vehicle, or
  • the property is stolen from the person of another.

A conviction for a second-degree felony theft subjects the guilty party to at least one and up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(Utah Code §§ 76-3-203, -204, -301; 76-6-412 (2021).)

Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Penalties in Utah

Like many states, Utah's shoplifting laws allow for both criminal and civil penalties.

Criminal Penalties

A person commits shoplifting by doing any of the following with the intent to deprive the merchant of their merchandise or its full retail value:

  • takes, conceals, or carries away merchandise
  • alters the price or value of the merchandise
  • transfers merchandise to a different container
  • under-rings the merchandise, or
  • removes a shopping cart from the premises.

The criminal penalties for shoplifting are based on the value of the stolen merchandise. Check out the above penalties and their monetary thresholds. Enhanced penalties may apply if a person commits repeat shoplifting offenses at the same store within a five-year period.

It's also considered retail theft to use or possess a theft detection shielding device or device remover in order to avoid setting off an alarm. Crimes involving theft detection shielding devices mostly constitute class A misdemeanors. However, if a person intentionally removes a theft detection device from merchandise valued at less than $500, that act qualifies as a class B misdemeanor.

Civil Penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, an adult who commits shoplifting in Utah can be civilly liable to the store owner for:

  • actual monetary damages, such as reimbursement of the full retail value of the merchandise if not returned in sellable condition
  • a penalty in the amount of the retail price of the merchandise but not more than $1,000
  • an additional penalty between $100 and $500 as set by the court, and
  • the store owner's court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees in bringing the action.

When the shoplifter is a minor, the minor and their parent or legal guardian are responsible for similar damages, penalties, and costs (although the penalties are reduced).

(Utah Code §§ 76-6-602, -608; 78B-3-108 (2021).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have been arrested for or charged with theft, receiving stolen property, shoplifting, or a related offense, call an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. A qualified lawyer can describe local court procedures and analyze the particular set of facts in your case.

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