Theft is a crime that involves taking property belonging to another person for personal benefit or obtaining services of another without payment. There are many different classifications of theft. Some thefts occur from an outright taking of property. Others occur when someone has rightful possession of property and refuses to return it when required to do so. The punishment varies based on the value of the property or services wrongfully obtained. Generally, theft of property or services valued at less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor, while theft of property or services valued at more than $1,000 is a felony.  

Types of Theft 

Theft involves taking something valuable that belongs to someone else. This can include property such as clothing, food, or electronics, cash, or even services. 


In Arizona, you can be arrested for shoplifting if you have concealed a product while shopping and do not intend to pay for the item, changed the price of the item, or used a device in furtherance of theft. Shoplifting is a misdemeanor if the property stolen is valued at less than $2,000 unless there is a pattern or history of shoplifting.

Theft of Goods

While shoplifting is technically theft of goods from a store, you can also be charged with theft for taking goods from other locations, such as a museum, a public facility, or even a friend’s house. This can occur in many forms, the most common of which involves taking an item that does not belong to you. But theft can also stem from lawful possession; for instance, if a friend lends you an item but you do not intend to return it, you are guilty of theft.

Theft of Services

Like goods, theft can also apply to services. Examples include leaving a restaurant without paying a bill or having a car repaired but driving away before paying for the repairs. In many cases, fraud or misrepresentation is used to enable the theft of services. Other examples include stealing internet or cable television services.

Motor Vehicle Theft

Motor vehicle theft commonly occurs when a car, truck, or other vehicle is outright stolen. However, Arizona also recognizes theft of a motor vehicle when someone borrows a vehicle and does not return it or under certain circumstances when someone refuses to return a vehicle to a secured lender after defaulting on a payment.

Classification of Thefts

Theft can come about through various circumstances. Arizona law recognizes this crime in cases where someone:

  • Controls property with the intent to deprive another person of the property
  • Is authorized to obtain property but exceeds the time term or use authorized
  • Obtains property or services by fraud or material misstatements, or
  • Controls property that is known or should have been known to be stolen property

Criminal Consequences

The severity of the punishment for theft of property or services is based on the value of the property or services stolen.

  • Property or services valued over $25,000 is a class 2 felony punishable by 5 years in prison.
  • Property or services valued between $4,000 and $25,000 is a class 3 felony punishable by 3 ½ years in prison.
  • Property or services valued between $3,000 and $4,000 is a class 4 felony punishable by 2 ½ years in prison.
  • Property or services valued between $2,000 and $3,000 is a class 5 felony punishable by 1 ½ in prison.
  • Property or services valued between $1,000 and $2,000 is a class 6 felony punishable by 1 year in prison.
  • Property or services valued at less than $1,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in prison, unless the property taken is a firearm or animal taken for animal fighting.

In the case of a felony offense, a court may also impose a fine of up to $150,000. For a misdemeanor offense, the court may impose a fine of up to $2,500.

Defenses to Theft

For any criminal offense, the defense of mistake — either mistaken identity or mistaken identification of property — always serves as a defense. Affirmative defenses that specifically apply to theft include that the property was a gift, consistent with a pattern of gift-giving between the purported owner and the accused, or that an Arizona court approved the transaction beforehand.

Protect Your Rights By Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for theft or are being investigated or accused of theft of property or services you need the assistance of one of Arizona Lawyers’s experienced criminal defense attorneys. Whether the accusations against you are false or you are the victim of mistaken identity, we understand the nuances of the criminal justice system that can lead to wrongful prosecution.

Whatever the circumstance, our experience on both the prosecutorial and defense sides of criminal cases gives us the skills to mount a strong defense and get your charges dropped or reduced. Once you set up a free consultation, a Arizona Lawyers attorney will review your situation, determine whether your rights have been violated, and assess your possible defenses. Once retained, our trial-tested attorneys will use every means at our disposal to fight the charges against you. If the prosecution’s case is solid, we’ll tell you, but we will also fight for an appropriate plea bargain under the circumstances. If you are the subject of a criminal complaint for theft, reach out to Arizona Lawyers today to discuss your options.