Indiana Theft Laws & Penalties for Convictions

Understanding Indiana Theft Laws

In this article, we are going to look at the Indiana theft laws to determine the different types of theft crimes recognized by Indiana law, and the potential criminal penalties for each type of theft in Indiana.

Different Types of Theft Crimes

Most people have at least heard of the following types of theft crimes:

  1. Misdemeanor Theft / Petty Theft
  2. Felony Theft / Grand Theft
  3. Shoplifting
  4. Conversion
  5. Embezzlement
  6. Auto Theft & Receiving Stolen Auto Parts

However, most people do not understand the differences between these theft crimes and how each of these types of crimes differ  under the Indiana theft laws.  We’ll start by looking at Indiana’s Theft Statute.

The Indiana Theft Statute

The starting point for any discussion about the Indiana theft laws begins with the Indiana theft statute.  Indiana Code 35-42-4-2-(a) states that a person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person, with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use, commits theft, a Class A misdemeanor.  However, the offense is:

     (1) a Level 6 felony if:

          (A) the value of the property is at least seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) and less than fifty          thousand dollars ($50,000);

          (B) the property is a firearm;  or

          (C) the person has a prior unrelated conviction for:

               (i) theft under this section;  or

               (ii) criminal conversion under section 3 of this chapter;  and

     (2) a Level 5 felony if:

          (A) the value of the property is at least fifty thousand dollars ($50,000);  or

          (B) the property that is the subject of the theft is a valuable metal (as defined in IC 25-37.5-1-1 ) and:

               (i) relates to transportation safety;

               (ii) relates to public safety;  or

               (iii) is taken from a hospital or other health care facility, telecommunications provider, public utility (as defined in IC 32-24-1-5.9(a) ), or key facility; and the absence of the property creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to a person.

Understanding Exerting Unauthorized Control Over Property

But what does “exerts unauthorized control over property” mean in Indiana theft laws?  Well, Indiana Code 35-43-4-1 explains:

(a) As used in this chapter, “exert control over property” means to obtain, take, carry, drive, lead away, conceal, abandon, sell, convey, encumber, or possess property, or to secure, transfer, or extend a right to property.

     (b) Under this chapter, a person’s control over property of another person is “unauthorized” if it is exerted:

          (1) without the other person’s consent;

          (2) in a manner or to an extent other than that to which the other person has consented;

          (3) by transferring or encumbering other property while failing to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of that other property;

          (4) by creating or confirming a false impression in the other person;

          (5) by failing to correct a false impression that the person knows is influencing the other person, if the person stands in a relationship of special trust to the other person;

          (6) by promising performance that the person knows will not be performed;

          (7) by expressing an intention to damage the property or impair the rights of any other person;  or

          (8) by transferring or reproducing:

               (A) recorded sounds;  or

               (B) a live performance;

without consent of the owner of the master recording or the live performance, with intent to distribute the reproductions for a profit.

As you can see, these definitions are very broad.  They cover a broad range of actions beyond taking something without someone else’s consent.  Here a few examples of activity that could be covered by these definitions, but by no means an exhaustive list.

(b)(1) – Could apply to the standard taking of property without consent;

(b)(2) – Could apply to an embezzlement situation, where you are allowed to control employer’s money due to your position at a job, but you use the money in an unauthorized manner.

(b)(4) – Could apply to situations involving fraud.

(b)(6) – Could involve a situation where a contractor promises to perform work, takes payment, even though the contractors never intends to perform the work.

(b)(8) – Could involve recording a movie or play with your phone and trying to sell a bootleg copy of the movie or play.  This is considered theft under the Indiana theft laws.

Indiana Misdemeanor Theft & Indiana Petty Theft

Many people ask what is considered petty theft in Indiana?  However, Indiana does not have a separate petty theft statute and Indiana theft laws do not actually recognize petty theft.  Therefore, Indiana does not distinguish between the theft of $1.00 from the theft of $700.00 (or the equivalent amount of merchandise).  Both are Class A Misdemeanors theft under Indiana theft law.

Therefore, a person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use, and the property’s total value is less than $750.00, commits misdemeanor theft in Indiana.

Indiana Felony Theft

Indiana Level 6 Felony Theft

The Indiana theft statute explains that theft is a Level 6 felony if:

  1. the property taken is above $750.00 but below $50,000, then the theft is a Level 6 Felony under Indiana law;
  2. the property is a firearm; or
  3. the person has a prior conviction for:

          (i) Theft; or

          (ii)  Criminal Conversion.

So if a person takes a gun, it is automatically a Level 6 felony under the Indiana theft laws.  Or if a person takes property that is only valued at $10.00, but has a prior conviction for theft or criminal conversion, then it can also be charged a Level 6 felony under Indiana theft law.

Indiana Level 5 Felony Theft

The Indiana theft statute further explains that theft is a level 5 felony if:

  1. The value of the property is at least fifty thousand dollars ($50,000);  or
  2. the property that is the subject of the theft is a valuable metal (as defined in IC 25-37.5-1-1 ) and:

           (i)  relates to transportation safety;

           (ii) relates to public safety;  or

           (iii) is taken from a hospital or other health care facility, telecommunications provider, public utility (as defined in IC 32-24-1-5.9(a) ), or key facility; and the absence of the property creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to a person.

How is Property Valued Under the Indiana Theft Statute

The Indiana theft statute also defines how property is valued in determining whether a theft offense is a misdemeanor or level 6 felony theft or level 5 felony theft.  The statute states, in relevant part:

 (b) For purposes of this section, “the value of property” means:

          (1) the fair market value of the property at the time and place the offense was committed;  or

          (2) if the fair market value of the property cannot be satisfactorily determined, the cost to replace the property within a reasonable time after the offense was committed.

A price tag or price marking on property displayed or offered for sale constitutes prima facie evidence of the value of the property.

So if someone shoplifts property from a store that has a price tag indicating an item is worth $999.00, that is evidence enough to charge them with a  Level 6 felony.

Indiana Shoplifting Laws

Just like petty theft, Indiana has no special or separate statue for shoplifting.  If someone is caught shoplifting, they will be charged with theft pursuant to Indiana theft laws.  If someone shoplifts items totaling under $750.00, they will be charged with a misdemeanor unless they have a prior conviction for theft or conversion, in which case they will be charged with a felony.  And as seen above,  the price markings/tags on property constitutes evidence of the amount of property taken.

While Indiana does not have a separate shoplifting statute, Indiana Code 35-43-4-4 does contain provisions that are relevant to shoplifting.  That statute states, in relevant part:

     (a) The price tag or price marking on property displayed or offered for sale constitutes prima facie evidence of the value and ownership of the property.

     (b) Evidence that a person:

          (1) altered, substituted, or transferred a universal product code (UPC) or another product identification code, label, price tag, or price marking on property displayed or offered for sale or hire;  or

          (2) transferred property displayed or offered for sale or hire from the package, bag, or container in or on which the property was displayed or offered to another package, bag, or container;

constitutes prima facie evidence of intent to deprive the owner of the property of a part of its value and that the person exerted unauthorized control over the property.

     (c) Evidence that a person:

         (1) concealed property displayed or offered for sale or hire;  and

         (2) removed the property from any place within the business premises at which it was displayed or offered to a point beyond that at which payment should be made;

constitutes prima facie evidence of intent to deprive the owner of the property of a part of its value and that the person exerted unauthorized control over the property.

This section of Indiana’s theft statute explains that altering or substituting a price tag on store merchandise constitutes a person exercising unauthorized control over property with the intent to deprive even they don’t actually leave the store with the property.

Also, taking property out of its packaging and putting into a bag or different packaging also constitutes a person exercising unauthorized control over property with the intent to deprive – even if they don’t actually leave the store with the property.

Indiana Criminal Conversion Statute

Indiana has a separate statute for criminal conversion.  Indiana Code 35-43-4-3 states:

     (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person commits criminal conversion, a Class A misdemeanor.

     (b) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 6 felony if committed by a person who exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person with the intent to use the motor vehicle to assist the person in the commission of a crime.

     (c) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 5 felony if:

          (1) committed by a person who exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person; and

          (2) the person uses the motor vehicle to assist the person in the commission of a felony.

     (d) The offense under subsection (a) is a Level 6 felony if:

          (1) the person acquires the property by lease;

          (2) the property is a motor vehicle;

          (3) the person signs a written agreement to return the property to a specified location within a specified time; and

          (4) the person fails to return the property:

               (A) within thirty (30) days after the specified time; or

               (B) within three (3) days after a written demand for return of the property is either:

                    (i) personally served on the person; or

                    (ii) sent by registered mail to the person’s address that is provided by the   person in the written agreement.

The Indiana Criminal Conversion statute looks similar to Indiana’s theft statute with the same elements that “a person who knowingly or intentionally” “exerts unauthorized control over property” of another person commits criminal conversion, a Class A misdemeanor.

The difference is that the language “with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use” is not present in the criminal conversion statute.  Indiana courts have stated that “intent to deprive the victim of his property is an element of theft, but is not an element of the crime of conversion.”

So even though a person may not have intended to deprive someone of their property (aka they did not plan on keeping the property or they were going to return it), while they have not committed theft (which requires intent to deprive) they have committed conversion.

Criminal conversion is a misdemeanor in Indiana but like theft law in Indiana, it can be a Level 6 felony or a level 5 felony depending on the circumstances, such as failure to return a leased vehicle as described in the statute

Finally, even writing a bad check to a store can be used as an inference to support a conversion charge.  Indiana Code 35-43-4-4 also states:

Except as provided in section 5(b) of this chapter, a person who has insufficient funds in or no account with a drawee credit institution and who makes, draws, or utters a check, draft, or order for payment on the credit institution may be inferred:

      (1) to have known that the credit institution would refuse payment upon presentment in the usual course of business;  and

     (2) to have intended to deprive the owner of any property acquired by making, drawing, or uttering the check, draft, or order for payment of a part of the value of that property.

However, Indiana Code 35-43-4-5(b) states:

     (b) It is a defense under this chapter if a maker or drawer (aka person who writes bad check):

          (1) who has an account in a credit institution but does not have sufficient funds in that account;  and

          (2) who makes, draws, or utters a check, draft, or order for payment on the credit institution;

pays the credit institution the amount due, together with protest fees, within ten (10) days after receiving notice that the check, draft, or order has not been paid by the credit institution.  Notice sent to either (i) the address printed or written on the check, draft, or order or (ii) the address given in writing to the recipient at the time the check, draft, or order was issued or delivered constitutes notice that the check, draft, or order has not been paid by the credit institution.

Indiana Embezzlement Law

Embezzlement is the theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.  This is most commonly seen in workplaces with someone who is authorized to handle or control money misappropriates or takes the money for their own use.  Using the company credit card for personal purchases, keeping cash payments, etc.

Most states have a separate embezzlement statute, but Indiana does not have a separate statute so embezzlement is treated and prosecuted under Indiana theft laws.  And just as we discussed in theft above, the potential penalties faced will depend on the amount of money embezzled.

Auto Theft & Receiving Stolen Auto Parts

Indiana’s theft statute does include a separate section for auto theft.  Auto theft is a Level 6 felony in Indiana.   Indiana Code 35-43-4-2.5 states:

     (a) As used in this section, “motor vehicle” has the meaning set forth in IC 9-13-2-105(a) .

     (b) A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another person, with intent to deprive the owner of:

          (1) the vehicle’s value or use;  or

          (2) a component part (as defined in IC 9-13-2-34 ) of the vehicle;

commits auto theft, a Level 6 felony.

     (c) A person who knowingly or intentionally receives, retains, or disposes of a motor vehicle or any part of a motor vehicle of another person that has been the subject of theft commits receiving stolen auto parts, a Level 6 felony.  However, the offense is a Level 5 felony if the person has a prior conviction under this subsection or under subsection (b).

This section includes both auto theft and receiving stolen auto parts.  The statute states that receiving stolen auto parts is a Level 5 felony is a person has a prior conviction.

Indiana Criminal Sentences for Theft Crimes

Indiana theft laws explain that theft will be charged as either a Class A Misdemeanor, a Level 6 felony, or a Level 5 felony.

We have explained all of Indiana’s Criminal Sentencing Guidelines in a prior article.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Indiana Criminal Law Attorney Today

We understand that this is a lot of information to digest.  There is a lot more information out there regarding Indiana theft laws but we wanted to help by providing a starting point for understanding the different theft charges in Indiana.

We know the Indiana theft laws can be confusing to many people and are here to help.  Each case is unique and there are a lot of variables that can provide a defense and/or affect your potential criminal sentence.  If its a theft charge is a first-time offense, you may be eligible for a diversion depending on the charge and/or circumstances.

Researching the Indiana theft laws is a great start, but if you’re facing a theft charge of any kind, you should consult with an attorney regarding the specific facts of your case and charges.  Avnet Law understands the issues and can advise you regarding theft charges or any criminal law legal issues.

Call 1-877-77-AVNET to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Indiana Criminal Defense Attorney Today or Contact Us by e-mail.

By | 2018-09-04T02:00:50+00:00 August 28th, 2018|