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How is 'theft' defined under Maryland law?

If you face theft charges in Maryland, the penalties can range from very minor to serious, depending on various factors. The courts will consider the value of the property that you allegedly stole, and penalties will increase as property value rises. Misdemeanors and felonies are categorized accordingly. The courts often label thefts as crimes of "moral turpitude," which can affect your ability to obtain employment or result in deportation for someone who is a resident alien.

Petty theft charges involve the theft of property with a maximum value of $500 to $1,000, depending on the jurisdiction. The courts usually classify these as misdemeanors with fines or jail sentences of less than 12 months. However, if you have a prior history of theft arrests, you could be subject to repeat offender laws, which mean harsher penalties. Felony charges in offenses where the property has a higher value could be labeled as grand theft with more serious sanctions, such as prison time, restitution and court fees. Vehicular theft is also a separate category that usually has enhanced penalties.

In addition to the value of the property stolen, the courts will review your criminal history, including previous related offenses. A first-time offender generally receives a lesser sentence. While a judge has leeway at sentencing, they can also consider aggravating and mitigating factors that could affect sentence length.

If you are facing charges for theft, the value of the property can greatly affect a potential sentence. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to seek a plea agreement from the prosecutor's office, which could reduce the severity of the crime and related penalties. Each situation needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Source: General Assembly of Maryland, "Article - Criminal Law," accessed Aug. 5, 2014

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