Theft convictions could lead to large fines, jail time, restitution payments, and employment problems. Des moines theft lawyers can explain more possible consequences.

Employers don't trust people convicted of stealing things -- especially not when people have felony theft convictions. You may find that employers, friends, and family won’t trust you around money or things of value anymore. Banks might not trust you with loans, especially if you still owe fines or restitution.

You can’t afford to be seen as a thief — not if there’s any way to clear your name. Maybe the property was yours to begin with. Maybe you have proof that you were out of state with friends during that time. Maybe your twin brother fesses up.

Whatever the facts of your case, an Iowa theft attorney can review the charges against you and help you determine what defenses may be available.

Des Moines Theft Lawyers

Remember that in order to convict you, the prosecutors have to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt — including the intent or “mens rea” element.

At Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, we defend the rights and liberties of good people who are accused of bad things. Des moines theft lawyers might be able to find you a viable path to reasonable doubt, thus saving you from paying thousands in fines and restitution and spending time locked up away from your family.

Get out of trouble and get back to life. Call Katherine Sears at Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, now at (515) 491 6128 to set up a free consultation. A receptionist is available 24/7 to take your call.

The criminal defense lawyers at Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, are based in Des Moines and Ankeny and represent defendants throughout Polk County and the rest of Iowa.  Get the aggressive advocacy you need in central Iowa.

Iowa City Types of Theft

  • Petty theft
  • Grand theft
  • Car theft or theft of a motor vehicle
  • Robbery
  • Armed robbery
  • Embezzlement
  • Fraud
  • Shoplifting
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Writing bad checks
  • Removing or tampering with the gas, electricity, or water meterine or service device so it causes inaccurate readings
  • Getting cable television or telephoune service with an unauthorized connection
  • Accessing a computer, system, or network for the purpose of obtaining computer services, information, or peroperty
  • Taking, transferring, concealing, or keeping a computer, system, network or any software or program or data contained in a computer, system, or network
  • Taking video rental or equipment rental property

Degrees of Theft

The degrees of theft are defined in Iowa Code 714.2.  Des Moines theft lawyers can explain to you why you're charged with one degree instead of with another.  Your criminal attorney can provide insight on whether it's possible to get your theft charges reduced.

Theft in the First Degree

If you steal currency or property (or some combination thereof) valued at more than $10,000, you will be charged with first-degree theft.

First degree theft is a Class C felony. You could spend up to 10 years in prison and will be directed to pay a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.

Theft in the Second Degree

If you steal currency or property (or some combination thereof) valued at between $1500.01 and $10,000, you will be charged with second-degree theft.

Second degree theft is a Class D felony. You could spend up to 5 years in prison and will be directed to pay a fine of $ $50 to $7,500.

Theft in the Third Degree

If you steal currency or property (or some combination thereof) valued at between $750.01 and $1500, you will be charged with third-degree theft.

Third degree theft is an aggravated misdemeanor. You could spend up to two years in prison and will be directed to pay a fine of $625 to $6,250 .

Theft in the Fourth Degree

If you steal currency or property (or some combination thereof) valued at between $300.01 and $750, you will be charged with fourth-degree theft.

Fourth degree theft is a serious misdemeanor. You could spend up to a year in jail and will be directed to pay a fine of $375-$1875.

Theft in the Fifth Degree

If you steal currency or property (or some combination thereof) of a value up to and including $300, you will be charged with fifth-degree theft.

Fifth degree theft is a simple misdemeanor. You could spend up to a month in the county jail and will be directed to pay a fine of $65-$625.

How the value of stolen property is calculated in Des Moines

Stolen property is valued as of the time of the theft.

The value of property is the highest value by any reasonable standard at the time of the theft.  Reasonable standards that the Court could use in determining how much you stole are things like market value in the community, actual value, purchase price, and replacement value.

The judge or jury will focus on whatever reasonable standard produces the highest of the possible values.  

Your Des Moines theft lawyers can help you come up with arguments about the value of the property taken.

Separate theft offenses add up

Multiple acts can add up. The amounts you're alleged to have stolen can be added together if law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney convince the judge or jury at trial that you:

  • Stole money or property from the same person or location in separate acts.
  • Stole from different people in different acts around the same place or time.
  • Stole from different places within a thirty day period as part of a single scheme, plan, or conspiracy.

Iowa code 714.3.


If you're convicted of any theft offense in Iowa, you will be directed to pay victim restitution.

The Court will establish a plan of restitution.

You probably already know that if you are convicted of theft, you will have to repay whoever you stole from. You may be surprised to find out that you may also have to pay fines, civil penalties, and surcharges. Additionally, you may have to:

  • Reimburse the crime victim restitution program.
  • Contribute funds to a local anticrime organization that helped the police in your case.
  • Pay back any public agency that incurred costs in an emergency response if you were convicted or received a deferred judgment on a DUI.
    • Public agencies include fire fighting, law enforcement, ambulance, medical, or other emergency services. You can be directed to pay up to $500 to each public agency that responded.
  • Pay court costs and correctional fees.
  • Pay court-appointed attorney fees, including the expense of a public defender.
  • Perform public service or community service if you can't reasonably pay all or part of the court costs

Your payments have to go to the victims' restitution order first, before your payments count toward fines, penalties, surcharges, crime victime compensation program reimbursement, public agency reimbursement, court costs, correctional fees, court-appointed attorney fees, expenses of a public defender, or contributions to local anti-crime organizations.

If the court orders you to pay restitution, your victim may file a restitution lien. Even though your victim will be granted a right to victim restitution for what your crime cost them, that victim restitution doesn't prevent them from being able to sue you for damages in a separate civil action.

Iowa Code 915.100

Punishment for Iowa Theft Charges

  • Simple Misdemeanor: Up to 30 days in jail. Fine of $65 to $625.
  • Serious Misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail. Fine of $315 to $1,875.
  • Aggravated Misdemeanor: Up to 2 years in prison. Fine of $625 to $6,250.
  • Class D Felony: Up to 5 years in prison. Fine of $750 to $7,500.
  • Class C Felony: Up to 10 years in prison. Fine of $1,000 to $10,000.

In addition to any criminal fines, you will have to pay an additional 35% surcharge.

If you get a deferred judgment instead of a conviction, you will pay a civil penalty instead of a fine. Civil penalties in the same amounts as criminal fines -- for instance, if you get a deferred judgment on a theft 5th, you could get a civil penalty of $65 instead of getting a criminal fine for $65. There's no additional 35% surcharge for civil penalties, though.

You should expect to pay restitution after any theft conviction.

If the DOT or the county treasurer thinks that you are trying to register a stolen vehicle or an embezzled vehicle, , they won't let you register the vehicle. They won't issue you a certificate of title and they won't let you transfer title or registration. Iowa Code 321.30.

The county attorney might ask for the judge to order you to perform community service hours. You may be required to pay a placement fee to be placed into a local community service program.

Some crimes carry additional collateral consequences.

You need to talk to city of Des Moines theft lawyers if you're facing criminal charges or if you're in Iowa City IA.

Defenses to Theft Charges in Ames

The government’s lawyer has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty of all elements of receiving stolen property. If they can’t do that, you get acquitted. Some possible defenses to the crime of possessing stolen property include:

Right to Possess

Did you have a right to the property? Was it yours in the divorce decree? If you have a right to possess the property, it isn’t stolen and you can’t be charged with theft for possessing it.

Lack of Intent

Did you believe that the owner had agreed to let you have or borrow the property? You haven’t stolen property and you aren’t in possession of stolen property if you honestly believed you had permission to have or borrow it.

If you didn't have intent to steal when you took the property but you later developed the intent to keep it, that does count as theft.

Lack of Knowledge

It’s theft if you intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If you intended to give it back or if you were on your way to take it to the police, you didn’t have the intent to steal.

What’s more, if you didn’t know the property was stolen (and if you didn’t have reason to believe that it was stolen), you can’t knowingly be in possession of stolen property. If you acquire something without knowing it’s stolen, you’re in pretty fair shape.

Mistaken Identity

This could be an “evil twin brother” defense — or it could just be that the victim, police, or reporting witness was mistaken about who they saw take something. If you were mistaken for someone else or if they were mistaken about the identity of the property, you could have a defense to receiving stolen property.

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

The First Amendment is my best friend and sometimes-savior but I also really, really love the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures. If your stolen property lawyer can show the court that you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the evidence in your case could get suppressed. If enough evidence gets suppressed, the case goes away — if there’s no proof of guilt, there’s no tenable case against you.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a different offense than theft. Identity theft is defined in Iowa Code 715A.8.

Identity theft involves fraudulently using or attempting to use someone else's identification information to try to get credit, property, services, or other benefit.

Identification information

Identification information includes (but isn't limited to) someone else's "name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number, nonoperator’s identification card number, social security number, student identification number, military identification number, alien identification or citizenship status number, employer identification number, signature, electronic mail signature, electronic identifier or screen name, biometric identifier, genetic identification information, access device, logo, symbol, trademark, place of employment, employee identification number, parent’s legal surname prior to marriage, demand deposit account number, savings or checking account number, or credit card number."

Degrees of identity theft

If the value of whatever fraudulently achieved benefit you get is $0-$1500, identity theft is an aggravated misdemeanor.

If the value of whatever fraudulently achieved benefit you get is $1500.01-$10,000, identity theft is class D felony.

If the value of whatever fraudulently achieved benefit you get is greater than $10,000, identity theft is a class C felony.

Punishment for identity theft

  • Aggravated Misdemeanor: Up to 2 years in prison. Fine of $625 to $6,250.
  • Class D Felony: Up to 5 years in prison. Fine of $750 to $7,500.
  • Class C Felony: Up to 10 years in prison. Fine of $1,000 to $10,000

Anything you get as a result of identity fraud, including things like money, interest, security, contractual rights, claims, and financial instruments, will be seized and forfeited. Identity fraud victims and banks that indemnify the victims may file claims for payment of damages.

Des Moines Theft Lawyers

Call an Iowa theft attorney when you're facing theft charges or violations of the identity theft laws in the city of Des Moines Iowa. Theft crimes, from misdemeanor theft to felony second degree and first degree theft, have significant penalties under Iowa law. Conversion is one of the most common crimes in Des Moines IA, in Johnson County, in northern Iowa, and in and around the University of Iowa.

Des Moines theft lawyers can help ensure that your rights are respected when you're accused of stealing.  Criminal lawyers can challenge the evidence against you. It's possible, but never guaranteed, to get your charges reduced or dismissed.  

Consumer protection laws are in place to help protect you if you've been a victim of identity theft.

Defense lawyers for property crimes in Des Moines, Polk County, Ankeny, Ames, Johnston, West Des Moines, Waukee, Saylorville, Bondurant, Altoona, Clive, Grimes, Pleasant Hill, Story County, Boone County, Marshall County, Dallas County, Jasper County, Madison County, Warren County, Marion County, Wapello County, Davis County, Ottumwa, Bloomfield, Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and the rest of Iowa.

polk county iowa criminal defense lawyers katie sears and john sears defense attorneys property crime theft stealing shoplifting arson robbery burglary fencing possession of stolen property identity theft criminal mischief

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  Reading this site doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship.  If you want to talk to us about your property crime accusation in Iowa, please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk.

What will happen if I'm charged?

When someone alleges that you have stolen something or destroyed property, law enforcement will start an investigation.  Depending on whether they believe there is probable cause to charge you with a property crime, you could be taken to jail or given documents that say when your court date is.  After your arrest, you will be read your rights and given an opportunity to call a lawyer or a law firm.

You will be taken in front of the judge for an initial appearance.  The judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to ask a witness questions to establish whether probable cause exists to charge you with the offense.  At this hearing, the witness will be under oath. There are reasons that your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. You should consult with them before making a decision.

Your attorney will let you know when you will next have to appear in front of the court.  This may be for an arraignment or you may be able to submit a written arraignment.

The county attorney’s office will review the information provided to them by the police.  They will determine what offenses to charge you with. You could be charged with a misdemeanor with a felony

Your attorney will let you know what the government is claiming you did, what your rights are, what the worst case scenario sentence could be, and how this could affect your criminal record. Your criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply.
Your law firm will give you legal advice on the pros and cons of taking your case to trial.  The decision of whether or not to go to trial is ultimately yours.

Finally, if you’re convicted, you might have reason and opportunity to appeal your conviction or sentence to the court of appeals or even to the Iowa Supreme Court.  As your criminal defense attorney for their opinion.

What should I know about lawyers generally?

Attorneys are people who completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees and then went on to attend a law school, such as Drake University Law School in Des Moines.  After completing law school, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam and are evaluated for character and fitness.  

Some lawyers and law firms do general practice, which means they accept all kind of representation.  Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. A lawyer might do only civil practice or only criminal defense.  Some lawyers get even more particular than that, practicing only (or primarily) in a narrow area, such as estate planning, domestic violence, worker’s compensation, personal injury, sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, civil rights, family law, child custody, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, workers’ compensation, or drunk driving. 

Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. All Iowa crimes are defined in the Iowa Code.  The Iowa rules of criminal procedure control what happens in Iowa criminal justice cases.

Federal court is different. If you are facing federal charges for a federal criminal offense, make sure to let your Iowa lawyer know that so that they can give you referrals to other attorneys, if necessary. Federal courts in Iowa are not the same things as state law courts in Iowa.

What offenses exist in Iowa criminal law?

Criminal law offenses are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Class A felonies exist, but most people facing felony charges are facing a class B felony, a class C felony, or a class D felony. If you have questions about assault, theft, or various other aspects of criminal law, you should talk to a lawyer.

What can an Iowa theft lawyer do for me?

If you’ve been accused of theft, arson, robbery, burglary, criminal mischief, conversion of a motor vehicle, or other property crimes in Iowa, you need to be in contact with an attorney or law firm that works with criminal law.

If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your criminal defense attorney can help coordinate with law enforcement to coordinate a self-surrender that doesn’t result in potential embarrassment at work or while you’re home with your family.

Your Iowa property crime lawyer will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office and let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial.  Further, counsel can provide some guidance on whether it’s advisable in your position to consider a plea agreement or to go to trial. They will talk to you about whether a judge or jury is likely to find a particular witness credible.

Your lawyer will let you know what sort of jail time you might be facing if convicted, how this will impact your criminal history, and how likely it is that you could get your charges dismissed.

Victim resurces

 Finally, there is a Victim Services Support Program available through the Iowa attorney general’s office.