In Maryland, the crime of theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. This is dependent upon the value of the items stolen and the use of violence and/or a weapon. These crimes are covered in detail by §7–104 of the Maryland criminal code.
In order to be charged with and convicted of theft, you must have acted knowingly. Purchasing items without previous knowledge that they had been stolen by the previous owner would not constitute an instance of receiving stolen property. It’s worth noting however that in certain cases if it’s deemed that you should have known the goods were stolen, this might constitute sufficient evidence for a theft charge.
According to section 3 of that same Maryland state criminal code, value of a stolen item is defined as the market value of the services or property stolen where and when the crime occurred. If this value cannot be determined, the value is assumed to be the replacement value of the services or property within a reasonable time frame after the crime.
If you are charged with theft, you may also be charged with burglary or robbery, which are serious crimes on their own, carrying more serious penalties than the underlying theft offense.
Burglary involves breaking and entering, and comes in different degrees relating to intent and the place entered. Breaking and entering into someone’s home with the intent to commit theft is burglary in the first degree, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Robbery is a theft by force or threat of force. Robbery is a felony, and the maximum sentence is 15 years. This goes up to 20 years for armed robbery which are crimes where a dangerous weapon is used.
If convicted of any of the above, your ability to obtain housing, employment, loans and other living necessities may be in danger. Additionally, you may be facing a potentially long term prison sentence should you not act quickly.
Don’t hesitate in acquiring competent legal counsel that can start building you a viable legal defense for all theft related crimes.
Potential defense strategies:
- You believed that you had the right to exert control over or obtain the property
- You acted under good faith in assuming rights to the property
- The property taken belonged to your spouse (unless you and your spouse were living in separate locations at the time of the alleged crime.)
- If you allegedly stole a trade secret, you already had rightful knowledge of that trade secret, or the trade secret was available from a source other than the owner pressing charges against you