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Theft is the willful removal of property belonging to another person or entity without permission or purchase. For a theft to be charged as a felony, the items or money stolen typically must be over a certain value. In some regions, a crime that warrants a felony theft charge is also referred to as grand theft. There are several different types of felony theft, generally defined by the monetary value of the objects stolen.
Many regions divide felony theft charges into categories, usually called classes. In most areas, a class one theft charge is reserved for objects of extremely high value. The lowest acceptable value typically brings a class five or six felony charge; people convicted of low-value felonies may face far shorter sentences and fines than those convicted of a class one or two crime. Any theft where the value is less than the minimum limit for a felony charge is usually charged as a misdemeanor, also called petty theft.
Although most thefts qualify for felony charges based on value, some jurisdictions may also qualify the theft of certain items as a felony. In some regions, the theft of guns or weapons is considered a felony, regardless of value. It is also important to note that not all regions have the same minimum or maximum amounts for different levels of theft charges; what is a misdemeanor in one region may qualify as a felony in another.
Identity theft can sometimes result in felony theft charges regardless of value. Since an identity has no inherent monetary value, the charges may depend on the intent of the perpetrator, the method used, and the harm done to victims. If a person uses someone else's identity to commit certain fraudulent actions, such as stealing mail, the perpetrator may not only face local or state charges but be subject to federal investigation as well. Generally, in addition to jail sentences, those convicted of credit card fraud or person-to-person identity theft are responsible for paying damages to help restore the victim's credit rating or monetary position.
Using violence, threats, or weapons to perpetrate a theft may result in associated felony theft charges, even if the theft itself was of relatively low monetary value. Generally the penalties for robbery with violence, mugging, or other theft-related weapons charges are much higher than those for theft itself. Some regions have specific guidelines that distinguish violent felonies from non-violent ones; the penalties for a violent felony are typically extremely high. Using firearms to commit theft is generally considered the most extreme type of violent theft, though if the victim is severely harmed or killed during a theft the penalties increase dramatically for the perpetrator.
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