Felony Theft Would Require Larger Amounts Under Proposed Maine Law

Changes to felony theft law are proposed in the Maine State House

Maine’s Criminal Statute Factory

Senator Roger Katz is sponsoring a bill before the 126th session of the Maine Legislature. The proposed law would increase the dollar amount of stolen property for felony theft charges. The bill is LD 366 “An Act To Adjust the Values of Property That Define the Class of Crime for Theft Offenses”. If it passes, it will fundamentally change the way theft cases are prosecuted in Maine Courts.

Proposed Changes to Maine’s Felony Theft Amounts

Theft by unauthorized taking or transfer is defined by Title 17-A §353. The law provides that the sentencing class of a theft charge increases with the value of the property stolen. The current structure is as follows:

  • Less than $500 is a Class E Misdemeanor
  • $500 or more, but less than $1000 is a Class D Misdemeanor
  • $1,000 or more, but less than $10,000 is a Class C Felony
  • $10,000 or more is a Class B Felony

The language proposed in LD 366 would modify §353 to change those amounts:

  • Less than $1000 would be a Class E Misdemeanor
  • $1,000 or more, but less than $5,000 would be a Class D Misdemeanor
  • $5,000 or more, but less than $20,000 would be a Class C Felony
  • $20,000 or more would be a Class B Felony

Maximum Sentences for Theft Charges

Here is a brief rundown of the maximum sentences for Misdemeanor and Felony charges in Maine. You can read the linked article for  more detailed information on Maine Criminal Sentencing.

Maximum Sentences for Maine Misdemeanor Crimes

  • Class E Crime:  6 months in jail | $1000 in fines | Probation rarely
  • Class D Crime:  364 days in jail | $2000 in fines | Probation sometimes
  • This article details all misdemeanors where probation is possible

Maximum Sentences for Maine Felony Crimes

  • Class C Crime:     5 years in prison | 2 years of probation | $5000 in fines
  • Class B Crime:  10 years in prison | 3 years of probation | $20,000 in fines
  • Class A Crime:  30 years in prison | 4 years of probation | $50,000 in fines
  • Probation can be extended for some cases

Some Types of Felony Theft Stay the Same

These new value amounts could have a big impact on the way theft charges are prosecuted. The changes would reduce the number of felonies, the number and length of prison sentences and, since probation is only allowed for felony thefts, they would reduce the load on that agency.  It is worth noting however that certain things would not change under the proposed law:

  • Theft involving any amount is still a class C felony if the person has 2 or more prior convictions for any theft or related offense like burglary, forgery, robbery, or negotiating a worthless instrument (writing bad checks).
  • Theft of a firearm is still a class B felony regardless of the value.
  • If the person is armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of the theft, the crime is a class B Felony regardless of value.

Interestingly, LD 366 does not specificity refer to the following criminal charges. These all include the same or similar language to current §353 and increase class of crime with reference to value:

  • Theft by Deception, 17-A §354
  • Insurance Deception, 17-A §354-A
  • Theft of lost mislaid or mistakenly delivered property, 17-A §356-A
  • Theft of Services, 17-A §357
  • Theft by Misapplication of Property17-A §358
  • Theft by Receiving Stolen Property, 17-A §359
  • Forgery 17-A §703
  • Negotiating a Worthless Instrument, 17-A §708

Presumably any changes would be applied to these crimes (and to any others I might be missing) so that sentencing class values will be consistent across offenses. We will see if the bill has any chance of passing. As of this writing, the fiscal note has not been prepared. The fiscal note studies the economic impact of proposed legislation; that study will likely show that the changes would save Maine taxpayers a ton of money. Still, being “soft on crime” is never popular, even if it makes sense.

Felony Theft Would Require Larger Amounts Under Proposed Maine Law by
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