Penalty for Stealing Stop Signs

By Andrea Farkas
A stop sign at an intersection.
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Stop sign theft might sound like youthful indiscretion, but the community impact and personal liability resulting from this crime counters the claim that it is just a victimless prank. Replacing stolen stop signs is expensive, creates confusion for drivers and delays emergency response teams. The most egregious result of a stolen stop sign is death. The punishment for stop sign theft often hinges on the effect the crime has on the community.

Misdemeanor Punishments for Stop Sign Theft

Most jurisdictions prosecute stop sign thefts as misdemeanors. For example, in Kentucky, the theft of a stop sign results in a Class A misdemeanor punishable by jail time, a fine or both. Ohio subjects someone merely in possession of a stop sign to incarceration and a fine, regardless of whether he actually executed the theft.

Felony Criminal Convictions for Stop Sign Theft

When deadly consequences result from a seemingly victimless prank, the punishment is more serious. In Florida, three young men died when an eight-ton truck struck their vehicle; the young men drove through an intersection without stopping because three people stole the intersection's stop sign mere hours before the accident. This resulted in a criminal manslaughter trial, felony convictions and jail time for the defendants. This is the first time that stop sign theft resulted in a criminal manslaughter conviction, and evidences the severity of the crime. Even if no injuries result from the illegal removal of a stop sign, the theft can result in charges of larceny and conspiracy to commit a felony.

About the Author

Andrea Farkas has been writing since 2005. Her legal article appears in the "Texas Tech Estate Planning" and "Community Property Law Journal." Farkas graduated from Texas A&M University and earned her law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law.