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New theft law
By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
Hugh, Drew and Stew have been friends for years. They aren’t real people. Hugh is the leader of the group and whatever he does the others tend to follow. Unfortunately, Hugh’s ideas usually involve breaking the law.
The three friends were sitting around Hugh’s house on June 30, 2014 with not much to do. Hugh convinced Stew to run over to the neighbor’s home and steal a bicycle from the backyard. Naturally, Stew stole the bike.
The next day, Hugh coaxed Drew to take a bicycle from the same neighbor’s yard. Later that day, the three friends met up. Stew mentioned to Hugh that he heard on the radio that the law changed July 1, 2014, and that the crime of theft is now a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana if the value of the stolen item is less than $750. Enterprising Hugh was thankful that Stew educated him on the law change.
For weeks, Hugh had his eyes on his neighbor’s old moped that was propped up outside against the garage. Hugh knew that the moped couldn’t be worth more than $200 or so. Once Hugh spotted an opportunity, Hugh ran over and quickly scooted the moped back to his home.
Hugh told Drew and Stew about his accomplishment. He explained that even if he got caught it would only be a misdemeanor offense punishable up to only one year in jail. Drew and Stew knew Hugh was smart, but they had no idea he was that sharp.
Later that week, a detective visited Hugh at his home. The detective asked about the missing bikes that Stew and Drew stole. Hugh said he had no information. Hugh allowed the detective to look around his home. The detective saw the moped in the garage. Within minutes, Hugh confessed to stealing the moped.
The detective informed Hugh that he would be charged with stealing auto theft, a level 6 felony offense punishable up to 2.5 years in jail. Hugh told the detective that the law changed July 1 and that since the value of the stolen property is less than $750 that he could only be charged with a misdemeanor. The detective explained that a moped is a motor vehicle and that stealing a vehicle or a component part of a vehicle is a level 6 felony offense.
After learning that, Hugh made sure to let the detective know that both Stew and Drew each stole a bicycle. Weeks later, Stew was charged with theft, a Class D felony, because his theft occurred the day before the law changed. Any stolen item constituted a felony regardless of its value. Drew was charged with theft as a Class A misdemeanor, because his crime occurred after the law changed. The bike is valued at well under $750 and is not considered to be a vehicle.
Hugh, Drew and Stew will all serve some jail time. Drew and Stew will learn not to hang around Hugh. Hugh will decide not to get too excited about changes in the law.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you