You can be charged with the crime of theft if you take property that doesn't belong to you, intending to deprive the rightful owner of it. This includes misappropriation of property that's in your control but isn't for your personal use, as well as taking possession of property that you know, or should know, is stolen.
The degree, or seriousness, of the theft for which an offender is charged in Iowa is based on the value of the property stolen. If the stolen property has a value of less than $250, the offense is charged as fifth-degree theft, which is the least serious degree of this crime and classified as a simple misdemeanor.
Read More: What Is Theft in the 3rd Degree?
The penalties for a simple misdemeanor, such as fifth-degree theft, in Iowa are fines or incarceration, or both. The judge can order a fine of no less than $65, but no more than $625. An offender can also be sentenced to a jail term of no more than 30 days. Iowa allows the judge to use his discretion within these guidelines when ordering a fine, jail time or both.
If a theft offense is classified as fifth degree, but the offender has two prior theft convictions of any degree, the current fifth-degree offense is bumped up to a third-degree offense. In Iowa, third-degree theft is an aggravated misdemeanor, which carries a heavier penalty than the simple misdemeanor of fifth-degree theft. If convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor, an offender can receive a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of between $625 and $6,250.
In addition to criminal penalties, if the fifth-degree theft offense involves shoplifting, the offender may also be responsible for civil penalties to the store. Under Iowa law, this can include returning or reimbursing the cost of the stolen merchandise and reimbursing the store's costs -- up to $200 -- incurred to recover the merchandise. This could include filing fees for a civil action or related attorney fees.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.