What Happens If You Get Caught Stealing in Utah?

Stealing, or theft, is the unlawful appropriation of another person’s property without the owner’s consent. The offense also includes having an intent to deprive the owner of the item, whether permanently or temporarily.

For help fighting a theft charge in Salt Lake City, contactLokken & Putnam, P.C. at (801) 829-9783.

If you get caught stealing in Utah, you could be facing criminal charges under Utah Code § 76-6-410.5. However, just because someone has accused you of unlawfully taking their or another individual’s property, that does not mean you are or will be found guilty of the offense.

As with any other crime, you are considered innocent until or unless the State can prove otherwise. You have the right to challenge the accusations against you. You will be afforded due process, meaning that you should not be deprived of your liberties until your case has gone through the proper legal channels and you have been found guilty.

The Criminal Process for Theft Crimes

“Proper legal channels” means that your case has proceeded through the judicial system. The process may vary for an alleged theft crime depending on what you were suspected of having stolen.

Generally, if you have been accused of stealing, you will make a first appearance in court. There, a magistrate will notify you of the charges against you and your rights. For a misdemeanor offense, you’ll be arraigned during the first appearance and asked to enter a plea (e.g., guilty or not guilty).

For a felony or class A misdemeanor, you’ll go through a preliminary hearing before being arraigned. The preliminary hearing is held to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that a theft crime has been committed and that you were the one who committed it. If a judge finds that there is probable cause, you will be arraigned, where you can enter your plea.

Whether you were charged with misdemeanor or felony theft, your case will go to trial (if not resolved through a plea with the prosecutor). A judge or jury will hear the facts and determine whether you are guilty.

To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements of theft:

  • Took unlawful control over someone else’s property.
  • Intended to deprive the person of said property.
    • Depriving someone of property has several meanings:
      • Taking permanently,
      • Taking for such an extended period that the item loses its value, use, or benefit,
      • Giving the property back only after receiving some compensation, or
      • Getting rid of the property, making it so the owner can’t recover it

If you’re found guilty, your case will go to sentencing, where the judge will decide what penalties to impose.

What Are the Punishments for Theft in Utah?

In Utah, theft is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Generally, the level depends on the item's value alleged to have been taken. The penalties are tied to the level of offense.

If you were caught stealing, the potential punishments you face are as follows:

  • Class B misdemeanor (item valued at less than $500)
    • Not more than 6 months in jail
  • Class A misdemeanor (item valued at $500 or more but less than $1,500)
    • Not more than 364 days in jail
  • Third-degree felony (item valued at $1,500 or more but less than $5,000)
    • Not more than 5 years in prison
  • Second-degree felony (item valued at $5,000 or more)
    • Not more than 15 years in prison

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Theft in Utah?

The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time the prosecutor has to begin a criminal case. If they fail to take action before the deadline passes, your case should be dismissed.

Limitations for theft in Utah are tied to the level of the offense:

  • Misdemeanor: The prosecutor has 2 years to file the case.
  • Felony: The prosecutor has 4 years to file the case.

Fight Your Theft Charge

The U.S. legal system affords those accused of crimes the right to face their accuser and question witnesses. That means you can challenge the allegations and work to show that they are unfounded or charges were unjustly levied. A criminal defense attorney can help.

To ensure your rights are protected throughout your case, reach out to Lokken & Putnam, P.C. We will be your advocates, doing everything we can to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.

Learn more about how our Salt Lake City team can stand up for you by calling us at (801) 829-9783 or submitting an online contact form today.