When Does Theft Become a Felony Offense in Tennessee?

On Behalf of Law Offices of Thomas Maynard Nov. 9, 2018

Crimes come in two main levels here in Tennessee: Misdemeanors and felonies. Which level does theft fall under? It depends on what was stolen.

Specifically, the value of the property or services stolen is the main driving factor in whether a given theft crime is a misdemeanor or felony. The critical threshold in this respect under state law is $500. Thefts of $500 or less in value are generally misdemeanors, while thefts of over $500 in value are typically felonies.

Whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in connection to theft allegations is a very big deal. This is because the penalties for felony theft convictions are much higher than the penalties for misdemeanor theft convictions.

For example, take prison time. The maximum prison sentence for misdemeanor theft in Tennessee is just a little under a year. Meanwhile, felony theft can land a person in prison from a year to multiple decades, depending on how much over the $500 threshold the value of the goods or services he or she was convicted of stealing went.

Here are the prison sentence ranges for felony theft in Tennessee based on the value of the stolen goods or services.

  • Over $500, but under $1,000: One to six years

  • Over $1,000, but under $10,000: Two to 12 years

  • Over $10,000, but under $60,000: Three to 15 years

  • Over $60,000, but under $250,000: Eight to 30 years

  • Over $250,000: 15 to 60 years

So, when a person is accused of theft in the state, what authorities are claiming the value of the goods or services allegedly stolen was matters a great deal. Given this, disputes over value could have big impacts in theft crime cases. Presenting evidence that authorities have inaccurately valued a given good or service too high is one of the potential routes for getting charges reduced in theft crime cases.