Theft and Conversion in Indiana

Having a conviction for theft or conversion can lead to several headaches.  Employers frequently ask questions and conduct background checks looking for either of these offenses, as they are considered “crimes of dishonesty.”  A conviction for either theft or conversion might very well discourage an employer from hiring an individual.  This blog will define both theft and conversion, as well as explain the difference between the two offenses.

 

Theft is one of the more commonly charged crimes in Indiana.  The crime of theft is defined by IC 35-43-4-2.  It states that: “A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person, with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use, commits theft. “

 

If the value of the property taken is less than $750, the crime is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a range of 0-365 days and a fine of up to $5,000.  If the value of the property taken is over $750 but less than $50,000, the crime is charged as a level 6 felony, punishable by a range of 6 months to 2.5 years and a fine of up to $10,000.  If the value of the property taken is over $50,000, the crime is charged as a level 5 felony, punishable by a range of 1-5 years and a fine of up to $10,000.   Theft can also be enhanced to a level 6 felony from a misdemeanor if the individual has a prior theft conviction.

 

The most frequently charged instance of theft is shoplifting.  In a typical shoplifting case, the state must prove that an individual selected items from a store, had the intent to steal the items, and passed all points of purchase without paying for the items.  Occasionally, there are times when a true mistake occurs, such as legitimately forgetting to scan an item at self-checkout, or scanning an item that does not actually scan in the system.  When a situation like this arises, it is important to look to the surrounding circumstances to determine whether an individual had the requisite criminal intent to steal.

 

A less common but somewhat related charge is criminal conversion.  Criminal conversion is defined by IC 35-43-4-3.  It reads as follows: “A person who knowingly or intentionally exerts unauthorized control over property of another person commits criminal conversion.”

 

Typically, conversion is charged as a class A misdemeanor.  However, there are rare circumstances in which conversion can be charged as a felony.  Conversion is charged as a level 6 felony if it is committed by a person who exerts unauthorized control over the motor vehicle of another with the intent to use the vehicle in the commission of a crime.  Conversion can also be charged as a level 6 felony if a person acquires a motor vehicle by lease, signs a written agreement to return the vehicle to a specified location within a specified time, and fails to return the vehicle within 30 days after the specified time.

 

The notable difference between theft and conversion is the element pertaining to depriving the true owner of any part of the property’s value or use.  The most common occurrence in which conversion is charged instead of theft is when a person takes property from a family member.  Usually, this occurs when a person takes a family member’s car without permission and doesn’t return it timely.  The defendant did not have the intent to permanently deprive the family member of the vehicle’s value or use, but exerted unauthorized control over the vehicle for a period of time.

 

In addition to potentially making it more difficult to find a job, a conviction for theft or conversion could also lead to complications in future legal proceedings.  Are you facing either theft or conversion charges?  Contact the experienced attorneys at Banks and Brower anytime at 317-870-0019 or by emailing at info@banksbrower.com.