Experienced Lebanon Theft Defense Attorneys

Shoplifting, stealing, and other theft crimes in Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Cookeville, and throughout Tennessee

Tennessee has dozens of theft acts listed in its criminal code, because “theft” can be a difficult classification to pin down. While some people may engage in actively stealing property that is not theirs, others may not see their actions as theft at all, due to misunderstandings or other reasons. At Lowery, Lowery & Cherry, PLLC, we do not believe that you should pay for a mistake or a lapse in judgement for the rest of your life.

However, a conviction on theft charges can lead to just that. If you are charged with theft, our Lebanon criminal defense lawyers will fight to mitigate any long-term damage a conviction might bring, and help you get back to the way things were. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

What is the definition of theft?

Tennessee classifies most thefts into one of two categories:

  • Theft of property (the illegal deprivation of another person’s physical things)
  • Theft of services (intentionally failing to pay for services, or diverting services for personal gain).

Theft of property is pretty straightforward, but theft of services can be a little more challenging. For example, in Tennessee it is illegal to share your Netflix password with other people, because the state considers it an act of theft – even though Netflix doesn’t have an issue with you sharing your password at all.


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Common theft crimes in Tennessee

Our firm represents clients accused of all manner of theft crimes, but some charges are more common than others. They include:

  • Joyriding, or taking another person’s vehicle out for unauthorized use and without the permission or knowledge of the owner. Mostly, this involves cars or trucks, but it can include another person’s boat, airplane, motorcycle, or ride-on lawnmower. This is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Forgery, which can involve replicating someone’s signature for access to their personal information or properties, or making false entries in records. This is a Class E felony.
  • Theft of merchandise, which can include shoplifting, altering the price of items, illegally removing an anti-theft device from a product before a purchase is made, or pulling the fire alarm as a distraction. The state doesn’t have to prove that you have the merchandise, either – just that you engaged in activity designed to defraud. The penalties depend on the worth of the merchandise.
  • Identity theft, wherein a person “knowingly obtains, possesses, buys, or uses, the personal identifying information of another,” such as Social Security numbers, bank records, credit services, healthcare information, and more. Generally speaking, these crimes are Class C or Class D felonies. However, in Tennessee, identity theft is often charged by the federal government, especially when it is committed via mail fraud, on the telephone (domain of the FCC), or via any other government entity. If you are charged with identity theft, call us immediately, because these are complicated cases that are best served by getting started right away.

Other, more “white-collar” crimes – like fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, writing bad checks, deceptive business practices, etc. – often lead to federal charges. Our Lebanon theft defense lawyers are licensed to practice in both state and federal courts, so we can effectively represent you regardless of jurisdiction.

What are the penalties for theft?

Theft charges are based on the value or worth of the services or property you have been accused of stealing. At the state level, you may face charges of:

(1) A Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or services obtained is one thousand ($1,000) or less;

(2) A Class E felony if the value of the property or services obtained is more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) but less than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500);

(3) A Class D felony if the value of the property or services obtained is two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) or more but less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000);

(4) A Class C felony if the value of the property or services obtained is ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more but less than sixty thousand dollars ($60,000);

(5) A Class B felony if the value of the property or services obtained is sixty thousand dollars ($60,000) or more but less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000); and

(6) A Class A felony if the value of the property or services obtained is two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) or more.

If you are convicted of a felony theft crime in Tennessee, you will lose your right to carry a firearm, your right to vote, and your access to government assistance – including federal loans for education. You may be unable to keep your home or get a job, especially if your job requires a professional license or a security clearance. These are known as collateral consequences.

We understand that the costs associated with a conviction are more than just monetary. You’re going to need skilled and effective defense. Partner Jeff Cherry is a former Metro Police Officer, and he knows just how the District Attorney will plan out a case. Because of this, we can anticipate problems before they arise, and build a stronger defense strategy right from the start.

How does burglary differ from theft in Tennessee?

Burglary is classified as a crime against property, but is separate from theft. Under Tennessee law, “A person commits burglary who, without the effective consent of the property owner:

(1) Enters a building other than a habitation (or any portion thereof) not open to the public, with intent to commit a felony, theft or assault;

(2) Remains concealed, with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault, in a building;

(3) Enters a building and commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft or assault; or

(4) Enters any freight or passenger car, automobile, truck, trailer, boat, airplane or other motor vehicle with intent to commit a felony, theft or assault or commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft or assault.”

It is classified as a Class D or Class E felony, depending on the exact circumstances of the situation. The penalties involve prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. Aggravated burglary is burglary of a specific habitation (Class C felony) and especially aggravated burglary is any burglary where someone suffers serious bodily injury (Class B felony).

Understand that these are all general charges. Being accused of tampering with someone’s mailbox (a burglary-related offense) is different from accusations of extortion (a theft-related offense), and whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony can depend on many factors.

Can I get a Tennessee theft conviction expunged from my record?

Tennessee’s process to clear your record is draconian, but it can be done. This is called expungement, and certain theft offenses can be removed from your record. Shoplifting, misdemeanor theft charges, felony theft charges for items worth up to $999, forgery (up to $1,000), certain types of fraudulent activity, and vandalism (a burglary-related charge) can all be expunged so long as:

  • It has been five years since the sentence was completed
  • You have paid all fines and associated court costs and obligations
  • You have completed all parole and/or probation obligations
  • You have no more than two criminal convictions
  • The crimes happened on or after November 1, 1989

Our criminal defense attorneys can help you clear your record if you are eligible for expungement.

Lebanon theft defense attorneys advocating for you

Since 1962, Lowery, Lowery & Cherry, PLLC, has represented Tennessee clients facing theft and burglary charges. We know what you’re facing, and we want to help. We serve clients in Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Cookeville, or elsewhere in Tennessee. To set up a consultation, call 615-444-7222 or fill out our contact form.