Welcome to Beerup Law
Ruth Beerup is an experienced St. Charles criminal defense lawyer who has been defending clients against stealing charges for 25 years. She has exceptional negotiation skills and is known for getting results. Stealing charges are often the result of a misunderstanding. Ruth makes sure your side of the story is heard. Even if your case is straightforward, give her a call and let her advocate on your behalf.
Stealing Categories and Punishments in Missouri
Stealing is a class D misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 if the value of the property stolen is under $150, the defendant has no prior stealing convictions, and the property is not in a special category listed in the statute. The special categories are listed below under class A, B, and D felony.
Stealing is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2000 if the value of the property stolen is between $150 and $749 and not in a special category. Additionally, if the defendant has 1 or 2 prior stealing convictions and the value of the property stolen is under $150 a class A misdemeanor can be charged.
Stealing is a class E felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison if the defendant has been found guilty of 3 prior stealing-related offenses on 3 separate occasions within the past 10 years or if the property stolen is an animal (not in a special category listed below).
Stealing is a class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison if any of the following are true:
- The value of the property is between $750 and $24999
- The property is physically taken from a person (robbery charges will also usually be relevant in these cases)
- The property is a motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft
- The property is a credit or debit card
- The property is a firearm or an explosive weapon
- The property is a U.S. national flag intended to be displayed on a building or a flagpole
- The property is a controlled substance, ammonium nitrate, or any substance intended to be used to make methamphetamines
- The property is any wire or pipe used for transmitting electricity and telecommunications or transporting natural gas or combustible fuels (most often stealing copper)
- The property is a legal document of the kind listed in the statute. This includes wills, original copies of legislative resolutions or acts, court records, and voters lists
- The property is a special category of animal. This includes livestock, any live fish valued over $75 raised for commercial purposes, or any captive wildlife held under a permit issued by the conservation commission
Stealing is a class C felony punishable by a prison sentence of no less than 3 and no more than 10 years if the value of the property is $25000 or more.
Stealing is a class B felony punishable by a prison sentence of no less than 5 years and no more than 15 years if any of the following are true:
- The property stolen or attempted to be stolen is any amount of anhydrous ammonia or liquid nitrogen. Note that this is one of the few categories in which an attempt to steal is punished the same as actual stealing.
- The property is livestock or captive wildlife with a value of more than $3000 and the defendant has a prior conviction for stealing livestock or captive wildlife. If found guilty under this section the defendant must serve 80% of their sentence before being eligible for probation, parole, or any other early release.
- The property is a motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft and the defendant has previously been found guilty of two stealing-related offenses on two separate occasions within the past ten years.
- The property is livestock with a value of over $10,000. An attempt is also punishable here.
- The property is owned by or in the custody of a financial institution and the property is taken from an individual person. This is essentially a bank robbery where no weapon is displayed and no violence is committed. This is the final category where an attempt carries the same punishment.
Stealing is a class A felony punishable by a prison sentence of no less than 10 years and no more than 30 years, or life imprisonment if the property is a tank truck, tank trailer, rail tank car, bulk storage tank, field nurse, field tank, or field applicator containing any amount of anhydrous ammonia.
Please note that the jail and prison sentences associated with each class of punishment are not the only outcomes possible upon a guilty plea or conviction. A 1- to 5-year term of probation is possible, usually associated with an SES or SIS. An SES (Suspended Execution of Sentence) occurs when a defendant is given a specific sentence but it is not carried out if they successfully complete probation. An SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) is similar but a specific sentence is not given. If the defendant does not complete probation they are then given a sentence.
The stealing statute RSMo 573.030 allows for a separate felony charge for each item that qualifies, even if they are all stolen at the same time. This is shown in State v Ross 479 S.W. 3d 140, in which the defendant stole two firearms at the same time and was charged with two felonies. On the other hand, the value of property stolen pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct can be added together to determine what class of felony to charge. In other words, if you steal a lot of things that would each be a class D misdemeanor, you are not going to be charged with a lot of class D misdemeanors. They are going to add the value of everything together to get to the highest charge possible, even if it was stolen from different people at different times.
Missouri Stealing Definition
The offense of stealing in Missouri is defined by five different elements, each having its own points of discussion. All of the elements must be present for a stealing charge to adhere. A person commits the offense of stealing when they:
- the property or services
- of another
- with the purpose to deprive him or her thereof
- either without his or her consent or by means of deceit or coercion.
To appropriate is defined as to take, obtain, use, transfer, conceal, retain or dispose. This covers more than the standard stealing that occurs when someone takes property and leaves with it. All that need occur is that a defendant take control of property or another for any amount of time, however brief, and the property does not have to be moved. In Walker v. State 232 S.W. 3d 586, the defendant got into a “bait car”, started it, and put it in drive at which point the police remotely shut off the engine. The defendant's brief control of the vehicle, even though it did not move, was sufficient for a conviction. In State v. Vineyard 839 S.W. 2d 686, the defendant broke into a closed restaurant at night, removed money from the cash register and cigarettes from a machine, then fell asleep. Even though the property never left the restaurant, the defendant was convicted of felony stealing.
Property is defined in Missouri law as anything of value, even if that value is personal or intangible. This would seem to cover services, but for good measure, a definition of services is given to include transportation, telephone, electricity, gas, water, or other public service, cable television service, video service, voice over internet protocol service, or internet service, accommodation in hotels, restaurants or elsewhere, admission to exhibitions and use of vehicles. The main takeaway here is that there is no minimum monetary value threshold for stealing. As long as the other four elements of stealing are present, you can be charged with stealing basically anything under Missouri law.
For purposes of Missouri stealing law, “another” is any person, business, or government agency other than the defendant having an ownership interest in the property or service. The state does not have to identify who the owner is, just that the property was taken from someone who legally owns it.
To prove that a defendant intended to deprive the owner of property or services, the state must prove either that they intended:
- to withhold the property from the owner permanently or
- to restore the property only upon payment, reward, or other compensation or
- to use or dispose of the property in a manner that makes recovery of the property by the owner unlikely.
The wording here is a little different than common usage, particularly the part about withholding property permanently. Missouri courts have consistently held that controlling property in a way that deprives an owner of their rights, even for a short period of time, is enough to prove an intent to permanently deprive. This includes abandoning the property shortly after taking control of it (see State v. Martin 211 S.W. 3d @652).
Consent, as relates to stealing, comes up when a person is initially given consent to use property, usually a vehicle, and they do not return the property when the implicit or explicit term or use expires. This is covered by the use of the word “retain” as a part of appropriate. Most often this is seen when someone borrows a vehicle and keeps it for longer than the borrower intended or when a rented vehicle is not returned in time.
Missouri statutes define deceit as making a false representation that the actor knows is false and that the victim believes and relies on. Deceit does not occur, at least as far as stealing law is concerned, when the statements have no monetary significance or when they are “puffery”. Puffery is exaggeration used in advertising or selling that is not intended to be taken at face value, such as, apparently, when a law firm centers all of their advertising on a ludicrously low price for fixing traffic tickets that they have no intention of honoring. Deceit is not proven simply by the fact that a person did not do something they promised to do; the state must prove that they had no intention of doing it when they promised it.
Coercion is a threat, communicated in any fashion, to:
- commit any offense; or
- inflict physical injury on someone; or
- accuse a person of any offense; or
- expose any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule; or
- harm the credit or business reputation of any person; or
- take or withhold action as a public servant; or
- inflict any other harm that would not benefit the defendant.
Coercion, as relates to stealing, is when you threaten to harm a person if they do not give you property or services. The threat needs to be communicated to the victim, not just implied. Additionally, a threat of accusation, lawsuit or official action is not coercion if the person issuing the threat has a legitimate claim on the property and the threat is directly related to the property that is legitimately claimed. In these cases the burden of proof is with the defendant as they must show that there is an honest claim on the property.