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What is Felony Theft in Ohio?

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What is Felony Theft in Ohio?

Theft, a common crime involving the unauthorized taking of someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it, can have varying degrees of severity. In Ohio, when theft escalates from a misdemeanor to a felony, the consequences become significantly more severe. Understanding what constitutes felony theft in Ohio, its classifications, potential legal repercussions, and the impact on one’s life is important for anyone residing or doing business in the state. The theft crimes lawyer in Ohio are always ready to guide and help.

The Basics of Theft

Theft is defined under Ohio law as the act of knowingly obtaining or exerting control over someone else’s property or services without their consent to permanently deprive them of it. The essential elements of this definition are the intention and the act of taking without permission.

When Does Theft Become a Felony?

In Ohio, the classification of theft as a felony depends primarily on the value of the stolen property or services. The law specifies threshold amounts that elevate theft from a misdemeanor to a felony. The value-based thresholds are as follows:

Fifth-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

Fifth-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

A fifth-degree felony theft in Ohio is defined as the theft of property or services valued between $1,000 and $7,500. This level often includes thefts of electronics like laptops or smartphones, shoplifting of designer items, or taking items like bicycles or small-scale construction equipment.

The legal penalties for this degree of theft can involve up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Individuals convicted will have a permanent criminal record, which can impact future employment and housing opportunities. The court may also order the individual to repay the value of the stolen items. The property’s value is generally determined by its retail or market value at the time of the theft, and for first-time offenders, there might be options for lesser penalties or alternative sentencing.

Fourth-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

Fourth-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

Theft is categorized as a fourth-degree felony in Ohio when the value of the stolen property or services ranges from $7,500 to $150,000. This level of theft can include high-value items such as motorcycles or car parts, or it might involve embezzlement or fraud within this monetary range. The penalties for a fourth-degree felony theft include imprisonment for 6 to 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000. Convicted individuals will have a permanent criminal record and may face civil lawsuits for restitution. The sentencing considers the financial and emotional impact on the victim and the method of theft, which can influence the severity of the charge.

Third-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

Third-Degree Felony Theft in Ohio

A third-degree felony theft in Ohio involves the theft of property or services valued at over $150,000. This degree typically covers significant cases like high-scale embezzlement, theft of luxury vehicles, expensive art or jewelry, and major fraud cases. The legal consequences for a third-degree felony theft are more severe, with potential imprisonment of 9 months to 5 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The high value of the theft often reflects a severe breach of trust, influencing the sentencing. Courts may also order individuals to make restitution, which can be a substantial financial burden. Other serious charges often accompany this degree of theft.

Additional Considerations for Felony Theft in Ohio

Across all degrees of felony theft in Ohio, aggravating factors such as the criminal history of the defendant or the nature of the theft can influence the severity of the punishment. Defense strategies in these cases can range from challenging the valuation of the stolen property to arguing a lack of intent. Post-conviction rehabilitation programs aim to reduce recidivism and aid in reentry into society.

Situations that Automatically Escalate into Felonies 

It’s not just the value that can escalate theft to a felony. Certain circumstances can automatically classify theft as a felony, regardless of the stolen item’s value. These circumstances include:

Theft of a Firearm or Dangerous Ordnance

This type of theft is treated with heightened seriousness due to the potential danger posed by firearms and ordnance.

Ohio law classifies the unauthorized taking of any firearm or items like explosives and military ordnance as a felony, given their potential use in further criminal activities and the threat to public safety.

Theft of a Motor Vehicle

Auto theft involves the unauthorized taking of someone else’s car, truck, motorcycle, or other motor vehicles. Motor vehicle theft is a significant concern due to the value of the vehicles and the impact on the victims, who may rely on these vehicles for their livelihood or personal needs. The severity of the charge can depend on factors like the value of the vehicle and the circumstances of the theft.

Theft Involving a Police Dog, Horse, or Service Animal

This type of theft is particularly serious due to the specialized role of these animals in law enforcement and service to individuals with disabilities. Police dogs and horses are highly trained and integral to police operations, making their theft directly impact law enforcement capabilities. Similarly, service animals are essential for the assistance and well-being of people with disabilities, and their theft can significantly impact the quality of life of these individuals.

Theft of Anhydrous Ammonia

Anhydrous ammonia is often targeted because of its use in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. The theft of this chemical not only poses a risk due to its potential use in drug production but also because of its hazardous nature, which can pose a threat to public health and safety.

Ohio law treats the theft of substances like anhydrous ammonia with heightened severity, acknowledging both the direct and indirect risks associated with its theft.

Theft of Controlled Substances under Specified Conditions

This involves the theft of drugs that are regulated under state and federal law, such as prescription medications.

The theft of controlled substances is an issue due to the potential for abuse and the impact on individuals who rely on these medications for health reasons. The classification and severity of this type of theft depend on the type and quantity of the substance stolen and the circumstances of the theft.

In each of these cases, the specific nature of the stolen item elevates the crime to a felony due to the potential harm to individuals, public safety, or law enforcement operations. The legal system in Ohio recognizes the unique risks associated with these types of thefts and imposes penalties that reflect their seriousness.


Restitution is essentially a court-ordered financial compensation that the offender must pay to the victim. This compensation is aimed at covering the losses that the victim suffered as a result of the theft.

The concept of restitution is grounded in the principle of fairness and the idea of making the victim whole again. It acknowledges that while criminal penalties serve to punish the offender and deter future crimes, they do not necessarily address the direct financial harm suffered by the victim. By ordering restitution, the court seeks to rectify this by providing a tangible means to alleviate the victim’s financial losses.

Calculating restitution involves a thorough assessment of the value of the stolen property or services. The court examines several factors to determine the appropriate amount. This might include the market value of stolen items, repair costs for damaged property, or the loss of income if the theft directly impacted the victim’s ability to earn money. For instance, if a stolen item was used by the victim in their business operations, the restitution might include not just the value of the item but also the lost income resulting from its absence.

Restitution is particularly significant in cases where insurance doesn’t fully cover the loss or when the stolen items have personal or sentimental value that exceeds their monetary worth. In such cases, while the emotional loss cannot be quantified, restitution can provide some financial relief to the victim.

If an offender fails to comply with the restitution order, they might face additional legal consequences, such as contempt of court charges, additional fines, or even an extension of their probation period. This emphasizes the court’s commitment to ensuring that victims are fairly compensated.

Restitution also impacts the offender’s rehabilitation process. It holds them directly accountable to the victim of their crime and can be an important part of accepting responsibility and understanding the consequences of their actions. This financial responsibility can serve as a powerful deterrent against future criminal behavior, reinforcing the lesson that theft has tangible and direct consequences not only for the offender but also for the victim.

Impact on Civil Rights

In Ohio, a felony conviction can lead to significant changes in a person’s civil rights. These changes affect many aspects of life and can have long-term consequences even after the completion of a prison sentence.

Here’s an overview of the impact a felony conviction can have on civil rights in Ohio:

  • Right to Serve on a Jury: Individuals convicted of a felony in Ohio lose their right to serve on a jury. Although this right can potentially be reinstated after the completion of their sentence, reinstatement is not guaranteed.
  • Voting Rights: Ohio law revokes the voting rights of convicted felons while they are serving time in prison. However, these rights are restored once they are released, including during any probation or parole period.
  • Eligibility for Federal Benefits: Convicted felons might become ineligible for certain federal benefits. This can include programs like food stamps, assisted housing, temporary cash assistance for needy families, and student loans.
  • Firearm Possession and Use: Those convicted of felonies involving violence or drugs are prohibited from owning, carrying, possessing, or using firearms under Ohio law. While it’s possible for gun rights to be restored after completing a sentence, this restoration is subject to certain conditions and approvals.
  • Holding Public Office: Felons in Ohio may face restrictions on holding public office. This restriction is particularly stringent for individuals convicted of bribery or embezzlement, as they are barred from politics even if the crime wasn’t a felony.
  • Career in Law: While the Ohio State Bar doesn’t explicitly ban released felons from practicing law, applicants must be approved based on character, fitness, and moral qualifications. This process involves interviews and reviews, and applicants must demonstrate remorse and reform. The final decision on admission to the Bar can involve several stages of review, including a possible decision by the Ohio Supreme Court.

In a legal proceeding for felony theft, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. This includes demonstrating the intentional taking of property or services, the lack of consent from the owner, and the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

The process typically begins with an arrest, followed by an arraignment where charges are formally presented. The defendant then enters a plea. If the case proceeds to trial, both the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to present evidence and witness testimonies. The final decision rests with the judge or jury, depending on the nature of the trial.

Life After a Felony Theft Conviction

The repercussions of a felony theft conviction extend beyond legal penalties. Convicted individuals may face challenges such as:

  • Difficulty in securing employment, as many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a felony record.
  • Challenges in finding housing, as some landlords are reluctant to rent to felons.
  • Social stigma and strained personal relationships.
  • Potential impacts on credit scores and financial stability.

Contact an Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer

Theft Crime Attorney in Ohio, Megan Patituce
Megan Patituce, Theft Crime Lawyer

Felony theft in Ohio is a serious offense with far-reaching consequences. It’s not just the immediate legal penalties that make it severe but also the long-term impacts on a person’s life and livelihood.

Should you find yourself or someone you know facing such charges, seeking legal assistance is the first step you should take in defending yourself in the criminal justice system. The stakes are too high to try and go it alone. A criminal defense attorney can walk you through the available defenses and potentially negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser sentence or submit a plea bargain on your behalf.