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What are the Penalties for Theft in Ohio?

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What are the Penalties for Theft in Ohio?

Understanding the legal repercussions of theft in Ohio is important for anyone residing in or visiting the state. Theft involves unlawfully taking property or services from another person. Ohio’s laws are structured to penalize theft offenses based on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances of the crime. This post will educate you on the levels and penalties associated with theft in Ohio. Reach out a seasoned theft crimes attorney for further legal assistance.

Understanding Theft in Ohio

Under Ohio law, as outlined in Section 2913.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, theft is defined as the act of knowingly obtaining or exerting control over someone else’s property or services with the intent to deprive the owner permanently. This can be accomplished through several means, including taking property without the owner’s consent, beyond the scope of what the owner allowed, or through deception, threat, or intimidation.

The key factor that defines theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property or services. The nature of the violation and the value of the property or services involved determine whether the offense is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, with various degrees of felony theft based on the value or type of property stolen.

In Ohio, theft offenses are classified based on the value of the property or services stolen and the circumstances of the theft. Here’s a summarized overview based on the Ohio Revised Code.

Petty Theft

Petty Theft

In Ohio, petty theft is considered the least severe class of theft and is classified as a misdemeanor. This classification applies when the value of the stolen property or service is less than $1,000. The law in Ohio is designed to address theft based on the value of the property taken, with petty theft representing the lowest tier in terms of value.

The penalties for a petty theft conviction can include a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 180 days. These penalties are intended to be proportionate to the relatively lower value of the stolen goods or services. These are the maximum penalties, and the actual sentence can vary based on the specifics of the case and the discretion of the court.

Additionally, Ohio’s theft statute considers circumstances that can influence the classification and severity of a theft offense. For instance, the nature of the stolen item (like a firearm or motor vehicle) and the victim’s status (such as being an elderly person or a disabled adult) can escalate the degree of the offense. In such cases, even if the value of the stolen property is less than $1,000, the crime may still be treated as a more serious felony due to these aggravating factors​​​​​​​​.

It’s wise for those facing such charges to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can provide guidance tailored to the specific circumstances of the case, helping you potentially mitigate the consequences.


This offense covers instances where the value of the stolen property or services is between $1,000 and $7,500. It’s classified as a fifth-degree felony, indicating a more serious crime compared to petty theft. The punishment can be 6-12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Notably, certain items like credit cards or vehicle license plates can be charged as theft, irrespective of their monetary value.


Burglary involves trespassing with the intent to commit a crime inside. The classification of this offense as a felony varies based on specific factors, such as whether another person was present during the trespassing and the location of the incident. The degree of felony depends on these aggravating circumstances.


Robbery is characterized by committing theft while either armed with a deadly weapon or causing harm. The severity of this felony charge is contingent upon the level of force or threat used. This offense is considered more serious due to the violent elements involved.

Grand Theft

This term applies to theft of property or services valued between $7,500 and $150,000. Grand theft is treated as a felony, with the degree of felony depending on the value of the stolen items. Special consideration is given to certain types of property, like motor vehicles or firearms, which can elevate the charge.

Aggravated Theft

Aggravated theft refers to thefts where the value is $150,000 or more. The severity of this felony charge is scaled according to the value of the stolen property or services, with higher values leading to more serious felony classifications.

Receiving Stolen Property

This involves knowingly accepting, retaining, or disposing of property that has been obtained through theft. The charge can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, based on the type and value of the stolen property. This law aims to discourage the possession and distribution of stolen goods.

These laws aim to penalize theft proportionately to the value of the stolen property and the manner in which the theft was conducted. For more detailed information, you can refer to the Ohio Revised Code or contact an Ohio criminal defense lawyer.

The Spectrum of Felony Theft

When the value of stolen property exceeds $1,000, the offense escalates to felony theft, with the severity of the penalty increasing in proportion to the value of the property:

  • Fifth-Degree Felony Theft: This level applies to thefts involving property valued between $1,000 and $7,500. The punishment can include a fine of up to $2,500 and a prison term between six and 12 months. Certain items, like credit cards or vehicle license plates, automatically qualify as fifth-degree felony theft regardless of their value.
  • Fourth-Degree Felony Theft (Grand Theft): This category includes theft of property valued between $7,500 and $150,000 or specific items like motor vehicles and dangerous drugs. The penalties can range from six to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Aggravated Theft: The most severe theft charges apply to high-value thefts. For example, stealing property valued over $150,000 but less than $750,000 is a third-degree felony, with a potential prison term of up to three years and fines up to $10,000. The penalties escalate for higher-value thefts, reaching a first-degree felony for thefts of $1.5 million or more, which can lead to an 11-year prison term and fines up to $20,000.
The long-term consequences of a theft conviction in Ohio

The long-term consequences of a theft conviction in Ohio go beyond the immediate legal penalties of fines and possible jail time. These repercussions can significantly impact almost all aspects of an individual’s life, particularly in areas like employment, education, and professional licensing.

Firstly, a criminal record resulting from a theft conviction can create substantial barriers to securing employment. Employers commonly perform background checks, and a history of theft, being a crime of dishonesty, might lead employers to question the trustworthiness of a potential employee. This is especially pertinent in professions that require a high level of integrity or involve financial responsibilities.

In the field of education, individuals aspiring to certain careers might find their paths obstructed. For instance, a theft conviction can lead to the denial of a teaching license, effectively ending aspirations in the educational sector. This impact is a direct result of the nature of the crime, which is often viewed as reflecting on an individual’s character and decision-making.

Professional licensing boards across various fields, including medicine, dentistry, nursing, and psychology, may also have access to sealed records for the purpose of approving, denying, or revoking licenses. This means that even if a record is sealed, it might still influence decisions regarding professional licensing, affecting long-term career prospects in these fields.

The state of Ohio has developed a comprehensive database called CIVICC (Civil Impacts of Criminal Convictions) that helps in understanding the wide range of collateral consequences associated with criminal convictions. For instance, the database reveals that a conviction for grand theft can expose an individual to hundreds of potential collateral consequences under Ohio law. These consequences extend far beyond the period of any criminal sentence and can include restrictions in areas like housing, government benefits, and even certain civil rights.

However, Ohio law does provide some avenues for mitigating these long-term impacts. Recent legislation has expanded the eligibility for individuals to have their records sealed, which can help in reducing the visibility of a conviction to potential employers or licensing boards. This change is part of a broader effort to balance public safety with the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society.

Defenses to Theft Charges in Ohio

When facing theft charges in Ohio, there are several defense strategies that can be considered, depending on the specifics of the case. These defenses are typically centered around challenging the elements of the theft charge or highlighting mitigating factors. The effectiveness of these defenses varies based on the individual circumstances of each case.

  • Challenging the Intent: One key element in theft charges is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. A defense strategy might involve arguing that there was no intent to steal, perhaps because the accused believed they had a right to the property or intended to return it.
  • Consent: If the accused had the owner’s consent to use or take the property, this can be a viable defense. Demonstrating that there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication about the use of the property can negate the theft allegation.
  • Value Disputes: In cases where the severity of the charge depends on the value of the stolen property (like distinguishing between misdemeanor and felony theft), disputing the estimated value of the property can be a defense strategy.
  • Mistake of Fact: This defense involves proving that the accused had a reasonable belief that led to a mistake regarding a fact in the theft case. For example, they mistakenly believe that the property taken was their own due to similar appearance.
  • Lack of Evidence: A common defense strategy is highlighting the insufficiency of evidence. This can involve questioning the reliability of witness testimonies, the accuracy of video surveillance, or the handling of the stolen items by the authorities.
  • Misidentification: In some cases, the defense may argue that the accused was wrongly identified as the perpetrator, especially in instances where identification was made under uncertain conditions.
  • Good Faith Efforts: Demonstrating efforts to return an item or pay for services when asked can sometimes be used as a defense, particularly in cases where there was a misunderstanding over the terms of use or ownership of the property.
  • Challenging Procedural Errors: If there were procedural errors during the investigation or arrest, such as a violation of rights, this could be used to challenge the admissibility of evidence or the validity of the charge itself.

It’s wise for anyone facing theft charges in Ohio to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the case, advise on the best defense strategy, and ensure your rights are protected​​​​​​.

Civil Penalties

In Ohio, businesses affected by theft can seek compensation through civil action, as outlined in ORC 2307.61. This allows a company to issue a civil demand letter to the individual responsible for the theft, requesting reimbursement for the value of the stolen items and any related losses, such as costs for apprehension or property damage. If the individual fails to comply with the demand within a 30-day period, the company has the right to initiate a lawsuit to recover these costs, including court fees and legal expenses.

While this legal provision offers companies a way to recoup losses from theft, it’s relatively rare for businesses to actually proceed with a lawsuit following the demand letter. The process of civil litigation can be complex and sometimes not cost-effective, especially for lower-value items.

However, anyone who receives such a demand should consider consulting with a legal professional. An attorney can offer guidance on how to respond to the demand and represent you in any potential legal proceedings. This approach ensures that your rights are protected and that you can make informed decisions about how to proceed.

Contact an Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Theft Case

Joesph C Patituce
Theft Crimes Attorney in Ohio, Joesph C. Patituce

The penalties for theft in Ohio are structured to reflect the severity of the offense based on the value of the property and the circumstances of the crime. From petty theft to aggravated theft, the state takes these crimes seriously, imposing fines and imprisonment to deter such offenses. Beyond the immediate legal consequences, a theft conviction has long-term ramifications that can significantly impact your future.

Understanding these laws is important for anyone residing in or visiting Ohio. Contact an Ohio criminal defense lawyer immediately if you have any questions or need representation.