Eastern Iowa Criminal Defense Attorneys

What's the Difference in the Degrees of Theft in Iowa?

Generally, theft is the unlawful acquisition of property or services. Iowa Code Chapter 714 defines various types of conduct meeting this broad definition. Iowa's theft law goes beyond simply providing the larger categories of what's considered an offense. It also recognizes that differences in how the crime is completed affect its severity. As such, the state separates theft into five degrees.

The degrees of theft in Iowa are differentiated based on several factors, including:

  • The value of the property or service,
  • How the property was taken,
  • Where the property was taken from, and
  • The alleged offender's criminal history.

Not all degrees of theft contain each of the elements above, but, in general, those are what enhance an offense's seriousness.

Because some theft crimes are considered more serious than others, some are charged as misdemeanors and others as felonies. Thus, the level of charge and associated penalties also distinguish one degree of theft from another.

Let's explore the differences in degrees of theft further.

First-Degree Theft

First-degree theft is considered the most serious offense.

It occurs when a person takes property:

  • Valued at more than $10,000,
  • Directly from another individual,
  • From a building destroyed or abandoned because of a disaster, or
  • From a building because of a disaster.

Because it's the most severe level of theft, first-degree is charged as a class "C" felony.

A conviction may result in:

  • Up to 10 years in prison and/or
  • Between $1,370 and $13,660 in fines

Second-Degree Theft

A person commits second-degree theft when they take:

  • Property valued at more than $1,500 but not more than $10,000, or
  • A motor vehicle worth more than $10,000.

It's a serious offense, but not considered as severe as first-degree theft. Therefore, the punishments, while still harsh, are not as steep as those for first-degree.

Second-degree theft is a class "D" felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in prison and/or
  • Between $1,025 and $10,245 in fines

Third-Degree Theft

Charges for third-degree theft may arise when a person takes:

  • Property valued at more than $750 but not more than $1,500, or
  • Property valued at not more than $750 and they have two prior theft convictions.

At this degree, theft is no longer a felony.

Third-degree theft is an aggravated misdemeanor, which carries the following penalties:

  • Up to 2 years in jail and/or
  • Between $855 and $8,540 in fines

Fourth-Degree Theft

The element distinguishing fourth-degree theft from the offenses before it is the value of the property taken. In this case, a person may be charged when the item is worth more than $300 but not more than $750.

Fourth-degree theft is a serious misdemeanor, with conviction penalties including:

  • Up to 1 year in jail and/or
  • Between $430 and $2,560 in fines

Fifth-Degree Theft

Fifth-degree theft occurs when a person takes property valued at no more than $300.

Although considered the least severe offense, fifth-degree theft is still a serious charge.

It's a simple misdemeanor that can result in:

  • Up to 30 days in jail and/or
  • Between $105 and $855 in fines

The Value of Property

If you notice, the stolen property's value is a common factor determining the degree of theft a person is charged with. Thus, it's important to know how Iowa law defines this element.

Value is determined in the following ways:

  • The market, actual, or replacement value of the item
  • The aggregate total when stolen from the same person or location in multiple offenses
  • The aggregate total when taken from different people in multiple violations but within the same place or time
  • The aggregate amount when taken from different locations within a 30-day period

If you've been charged with any degree of theft, contact Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger at (319) 499-5524 as soon as possible. Our attorneys in Iowa City have over 50 years of combined experience and know how to aggressively challenge accusations.