Rhode Island Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony Larceny

Stealing property in Rhode Island can result in criminal penalties under the state's larceny statutes. In Rhode Island, penalties for larceny range from a misdemeanor to a 10-year felony.

In Rhode Island, larceny (or theft) occurs when a person knowingly:

  • takes unauthorized possession or control of another’s property intending to deprive the owner of the property
  • obtains another’s property by false pretenses intending to cheat or defraud the owner, or
  • receives stolen property knowing it to be stolen.

Rhode Island laws also identify a number of very specific types of larceny or theft offenses, including:

  • theft of poultry and receiving stolen poultry
  • stealing of animals or farm products
  • larceny of marine equipment
  • theft of motor fuel, and
  • theft of historic stone walls.

This article discusses the classifications that apply generally to stealing another’s property. Check out the state code for information on specific larceny categories. (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-41-1 et seq. (2020).).

Classification and Penalties for Larceny in Rhode Island

Rhode Island classifies larceny offenses primarily by the dollar value of the property stolen. In certain cases, the penalties are based on the type of property (regardless of value) or the particular victim. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-5 (2020).)

Misdemeanor Larceny

If the value of the stolen property does not exceed $1,500, the offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year’s incarceration and a $500 fine.

Felony Larceny

Stolen property valued at more than $1,500 is considered a felony. The maximum penalty increases as the value of the stolen items increases.

  • For property that exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000 in value, the maximum penalty is a three-year prison sentence and a $1,500 fine.
  • For property that exceeds $5,000 but is less than $10,000 in value, the maximum penalty is a six-year prison sentence and a $3,000 fine.
  • For property that exceeds $10,000, the maximum penalty is a 10-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

Regardless of the value of the property stolen, it's a 10-year felony to steal a firearm, receive stolen property from a minor (younger than 18), or steal directly from a person.

Elderly victim. Rhode Island also makes stealing any amount from a victim age 65 or older a felony. For stolen property valued at $500 or less, the person faces a felony sentence of one to five years' incarceration and a $3,000 fine. If the property stolen is valued in excess of $500, the person faces a sentence of two to 15 years’ incarceration and a $5,000 fine.

(R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-41-5, -7 (2020).)

Shoplifting Penalties

A person who steals merchandise from a store or business establishment faces both criminal and civil penalties. Civil penalties are meant to deter shoplifters and compensate store owners for the costs incurred to prevent and "prosecute" (sue) shoplifters.

Criminal Penalties

Rhode Island law defines shoplifting as:

  • taking or concealing retail merchandise offered for sale with intent to deprive the store owner of the merchandise, or
  • altering, transferring, or removing a price tag or label with intent to deprive the store owner of all or any part of the merchandise’s retail value.

A crime is committed even if the shoplifter doesn't make it out of the store with the merchandise.

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $50 or two times the full retail value of the merchandise, whichever is greater. If the offender shoplifted over $100 in merchandise and has a prior shoplifting conviction, the penalty increases to a felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-20 (2020).)

Civil Penalties

An adult or emancipated minor who commits shoplifting can also be held civilly liable to the store owner. The store owner can make a written demand for damages incurred (but not penalties), and the accused shoplifter has 20 days to respond. If the shoplifter responds and complies with the demand, the store owner must release the shoplifter from any further civil liability.

In lieu of the written demand or if there is no response, the store owner can file a civil action against the accused shoplifter for:

  • damages up to the retail value of the merchandise (if not recovered in merchantable condition)
  • a civil penalty of up to $100, and
  • court costs.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-28 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face theft or shoplifting charges, speak to a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, help you navigate the criminal justice system, and explain any consequences of a plea deal or criminal record. Even if the charges are for misdemeanor larceny, the consequences of a criminal record can impact your ability to get employment, housing, or loans. It's best to consult an attorney before accepting any type of plea deal or civil settlement (in the case of shoplifting).

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