There was a time, not all that long ago, when “petty” theft crimes, such as shoplifting, were not considered to be serious offenses. Consequently, the punishment for a conviction for petty theft was usually nothing more than a lecture from the judge and a requirement that the defendant reimburse the victim for the value of the items stolen. Today, however, even a minor theft conviction can have a long-lasting and far-reaching effect on the defendant, specifically with regard to future employment opportunities. If you have been charged with theft in the State of Tennessee it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away to discuss strategies that could prevent a conviction.
How A Theft Conviction Can Impact Your Life
In today’s electronic age, almost all employers conduct a background check before hiring a prospective employee. The background check requirement doesn’t just apply to professional jobs. You will likely even need to pass a background check to work at your neighborhood McDonald’s these days. While the existence of a conviction on your criminal background check doesn’t always prevent you from being offered a position, a theft convict almost certainly does. From prospective employer’s standpoint, a theft conviction means you are potentially dishonest. Having a dishonest employee working a cash register is obviously a problem for an employer. You may know that you are not dishonest and there were extenuating circumstances that caused you to be convicted of theft, such as a momentary lapse in judgment when you were young, a silly bet, or even something you did when you were desperate to feed your children – but an prospective employer will typically not even ask for an explanation. Your application will simply be put in the rejected pile.
Tennessee Theft Crimes
Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-14-103 defines theft as follows:
“a person commits theft of property if, with intent to deprive the owner of property, the person knowingly obtains or exercises control over the property without the owner’s effective consent.”
Like most states, Tennessee categorizes theft offenses according to the value of the property or services involved as follows:
- Class A Misdemeanor – theft is charged as a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less. The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of no more than 11 months and 29 days, a fine of no more than $2,500, or both.
- Class E Felony – if the value of the property or services stolen is more than $500, but less than $1,000. The punishment for a Class E felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than six years, and a fine of no more than $3,000.
- Class D Felony — if the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. The punishment for a Class D felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than 12 years, and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
- Class C Felony — if the value of the property or services stolen is $10,000 or more but less than $60,000. The punishment for a Class C felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than three years and not more than 15 years, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
- Class B Felony — if the value of the property or services stolen is $60,000 or more. The punishment for a Class B felony in Tennessee includes imprisonment for a term of not less than eight years and not more than 30 years, and a fine not to exceed $25,000.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?
Hiring an experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyer right away ensures that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Of equal importance, by consulting with a criminal defense lawyer early on you greatly increase the odds of developing a defense strategy that will allow you to avoid a theft conviction altogether.
If you have been charged with a theft offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.