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Theft Crimes

Theft Charges Carry Hefty Consequences In Tennessee

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Theft Offenses

Tennessee state law identifies and criminalizes a number of “offenses against property.” According to the most recent Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Crime in Tennessee report, crimes that fall under the category of theft were the most common offenses against property charges to be brought up against individuals in 2012, constituting more than half of all offenses against property charges.

In Tennessee, offense levels for theft charges may range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class A felony, with any assessed fines depending on the monetary value of the property. Basic guidelines for theft charges are outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A) § 39-14-105 as follows:

If the theft value is: Then the charge and sentence is:
$500 or less Class A misdemeanor: Up to eleven (11) months (29) twenty-nine days in jail and up to $2,500 in fines
$500-$1,000 Class E felony: 1-6 years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines
$1,000-$10,000 Class D felony: 2-12 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines
$10,000-$60,000 Class C felony: 3-15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
$60,000-$250,000 Class B felony: 8-30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines
More than $250,000 Class A felony: 15-60 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines

Although fines for theft offenses are assessed pursuant to the guidelines set forth in § 39-14-105, most offenses have a compulsory class grading that may be higher than that listed in the guideline. Also, any class level may be elevated due to any of the following conditions:

  • The number of victims involved;
  • If more than one element of the offense occurred;
  • The county where the crime took place;
  • If there was an inducement, offer, acceptance, delivery, storage or financial transaction involving the property;
  • The defendant’s criminal history, or
  • Any aggravating factors


T.C.A. § 39-14-103 defines Theft as the act of:

  • Intending to deprive the owner of his/her property, and
  • Knowingly obtaining or exercising control of the property without the owner’s effective consent.

According to T.C.A. § 39-14-114, Forgery is defined as falsifying a writing with the intent to defraud or harm another. Forgery is a Class E felony.
As with forgery, Criminal Simulation fines are calculated according to § 39-14-105 and is a Class E felony. However, criminal simulation differs in that it is defined as having the intending to defraud or harm another by:

  • Making or altering an object, in whole or in part, so that it appears to have value because of age, antiquity, rarity, source or authorship that it does not have; or
  • Authenticating or certifying an object so made or altered as genuine or as different from what it is; and
  • Possessing an object so made or altered, with intent to sell, pass or otherwise utter it;
  • Possessing any machinery, plates or other contrivances designed to produce instruments reporting to be credit or debit cards of an issuer who had not consented to the preparation of the cards;
  • Possessing any instrument, apparatus or contrivance designed, adapted or used for commission of any theft of property or services by fraudulent means.

According to T.C.A. § 39-14-112, Extortion is a Class D felony and is defined as using coercion upon another person with the intent to obtain property, services, any advantage or immunity; or restrict unlawfully another’s freedom of action.

According to T.C.A. § 39-14-118, a person commits the crime of Illegal Possession or Fraudulent Use of Credit or Debit Card if he/she:

  • Takes, exercises control over, or otherwise uses that card or information from that card without consent from the owner or issuer; or
  • Uses that card, allows that card to be used, uses information from that card, or allows information from that card to be used for the purpose of obtaining property, credit, services or anything else of value with knowledge that:
    • The card is forged or stolen;
    • The card has been revoked or cancelled;
    • The card has expired and the person uses the card with fraudulent intent; or
    • For any other reason the use of the card is unauthorized by either the issuer or the person to whom the credit or debit card is issued.

Issuing a False Financial Statement is a Class B misdemeanor and is defined by T.C.A. § 39-14-120 as intending to defraud by:

  • Knowingly making or uttering a written instrument which claims to describe the financial condition or the financial ability of any person to pay, if that claim is inaccurate in some material respect; or
  • Representing in writing that a written instrument asserts a person’s financial condition or that the person’s ability to pay is accurate, when it is known or there is reason to believe that the assertion is inaccurate.

The fines and class level those charged with the crime of Worthless Checks vary on the individual facts and circumstances of the case. T.C.A. § 39-14-121 defines this offense as knowingly or with fraudulent intent:

  • Issuing or passing a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that at the time of issuance or passing there are not sufficient funds for the payment in full of the check or order, or
  • Stopping payment on a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, if credit, goods or services were provided at the time of the issuance of the check or similar sight order.

According to T.C.A. § 39-14-133, False or Fraudulent Insurance Claims is defined as intentionally:

  • Presenting or causing a false or fraudulent claim to be presented, or presenting any proof in support of such claim, for the payment of a loss, or other benefits, upon any contract of insurance coverage, or automobile comprehensive or collision insurance, or certificate of such insurance or prepares, or
  • Making or subscribing to a false or fraudulent account, certificate, affidavit or proof of loss, or other documents or writing, with intent that the same may be presented or used in support of such claim.

Additional theft charges include any of the following:

  • T.C.A. § 39-14-138: Theft of Trade Secrets – intending to deprive or withhold from its owner the control of a trade secret or intending to appropriate a trade secret for the use of another. This includes stealing or embezzling an article representing a trade secret, or without the appropriate authority, making or causing a copy of an article representing a trade secret to be made.
  • T.C.A. § 39-14-106: Unauthorized Use of Automobiles and Other Vehicles ( Joyriding) – taking another’s automobile, airplane, motorcycle, bicycle, boat or other vehicle without the consent of the owner and without intending to deprive the owner thereof.
  • T.C.A. § 39-14-119: Reporting of Credit or Debit Card Lost, Stolen or Mislaid – reporting or attempting to report a credit or debit card as being lost, stolen, or mislaid knowing that the report is false violates.
  • T.C.A. § 39-14-146: Theft of Property (Conduct Involving Merchandise) – intending to deprive a merchant of the stated price of merchandise by any of the following:
    • Concealing the merchandise;
    • Removing, taking possession of, or causing the removal of merchandise;
    • Altering, transferring or removing any price marking, or any other marking which aids in determining value affixed to the merchandise, or
    • Transferring the merchandise from one (1) container to another.

Although theft offenses are the most commonly charged offenses against property in Tennessee, a conviction can have serious, long-term effects on your freedom, finances, reputation and future employment and educational opportunities.

Contact Our Firm

If you have been charged with or are being investigated for any of the theft offenses listed above, the criminal defense attorneys at McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, can help. We have extensive experience protecting our clients’ rights and can help you in determining your best defense. Please call 865-566-0125 or fill out this contact form for a free initial telephone consultation. We accept credit cards.

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