Utah’s criminal code distinguishes between many types of theft offenses. In order to understand what makes theft by extortion different from related charges like retail theft, theft by deception, or theft of services, you need to be aware of how theft and extortion are both defined.
Reasons You Can Be Charged with Theft by Extortion in Salt Lake City
Theft has a fairly straightforward definition under Utah Code § 76-6-404, which states, “A person commits theft if he [or she] obtains or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another.” Critically, the defendant must have acted with intent to deprive the rightful owner of the stolen property. The prosecutor must prove that this was the defendant’s intent.
Many alleged incidents of theft in Utah have nothing to do with extortion. A person commits theft by extortion under Utah Code § 76-6-406 only when he or she threatens to:
- Accuse another person of committing a crime in order to expose that person to “hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”
- Commit any other crime, such as assaulting the person.
- Injure, confine, or restrain the property owner or another person.
- Reveal any information the victim would want to keep private.
- Start or continue a boycott, strike, or related group action which has not actually been requested by, and is not beneficial to, the group the defendant claims to represent.
- Take actions, or refrain from taking actions, in an official capacity.
- Testify, or withhold testimony, in another person’s legal matter.
- Do anything else that wouldn’t significantly benefit the defendant, but would significantly harm anyone else in terms of their safety, health, financial state, business, personal relationships, or reputation.
Theft by extortion is a separate charge from extortion or bribery to dismiss a criminal proceeding under Utah Code § 76-8-509, which is a second degree felony. Felonies, misdemeanors, and their criminal penalties in Utah are explained below.
Utah Misdemeanor and Felony Penalties: Criminal Fines and Sentencing
Utah divides crimes into two broad categories: misdemeanor crimes, which are lesser offenses like disorderly conduct, and felony crimes, which are serious offenses like homicide and rape.
There are three types of misdemeanors: Class C, Class B, and Class A. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious types of misdemeanors.
There are also three types of felonies: third degree, second degree, and first degree. First degree felonies are the most serious crimes in Utah.
Theft by extortion can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, of varying classes and degrees, depending on factors like:
- The dollar value of the stolen property. The higher the property value, the more serious the crime, and the harsher the resulting penalties can be. Here is how Utah charges theft crimes based on stolen property value, with some exceptions:
- Less than $500 – Class B Misdemeanor
- $500 to $1,499 – Class A Misdemeanor
- $1,500 to $4,999 – Third Degree Felony
- $5,000 or more – Second Degree Felony
- The type of property that was stolen. For instance, stealing a gun or a functioning car is automatically a second degree felony, regardless of the property’s actual value.
- Whether the defendant has a prior record of theft. Having a history of theft can make the penalties for a new conviction harsher. To give an example, stealing less than $500 is usually a Class B misdemeanor, but becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant stole from the same property during the last five years and received written notice forbidding him or her to reenter the property.
Depending on what sort of misdemeanor or felony the defendant is charged with, he or she could face the following criminal penalties:
- Class B Misdemeanor
- Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
- Fine – Up to $1,000
- Class A Misdemeanor
- Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
- Fine – Up to $2,500
- Third Degree Felony
- Sentence – Up to 5 years in prison
- Fine – Up to $5,000
- Second Degree Felony
- Sentence – Up to 15 years in prison
- Fine – Up to $10,000
Additionally, the defendant could be civilly (non-criminally) liable for three times the losses sustained by the victim: for instance, $15,000 for $5,000 in damages. This is called “treble damages” (triple damages).
Schedule Your Free Consultation with A Utah Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with theft by extortion or other theft crimes in Utah, you face extremely serious criminal penalties that can deprive you of your freedom for years. You need to confront the charges head-on with help from a highly experienced and aggressive theft by extortion lawyer in Salt Lake City. Criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience handling theft charges in Utah, and may be able to help have your charges dropped or the case dismissed.
If you or one of your loved ones was arrested for theft by extortion in Salt Lake City, call the law offices of Overson Law right away at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free and confidential consultation. Darwin serves Salt Lake County, Utah County, Wasatch County, Summit County, Morgan County, Weber County, Davis County, Tooele County, and locations throughout Utah. He is ready to make emergency visits to county jails and holding centers statewide.