ARS § 13-1802 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of theft. People commit this offense when they knowingly use or take someone else’s property or services without lawful authority to do so. A violation of this law could lead to Class 2 felony charges punishable by over 12 years in state prison.
The language of ARS 13-1802 lists several ways in which a person can commit the crime of theft. Some of these include when a person knowingly:
- controls property of another with the intent to deprive the other person of it,
- obtains services or property of another by means of any material misrepresentation with intent to deprive the other person of such property or services, and/or
- controls property of another knowing or having reason to know that the property was stolen.
- taking a vehicle engine from an auto shop without permission or consent.
- snatching a neighbor’s bike and giving it away as a birthday gift.
- accepting stolen property from a friend and agreeing to hide it in a garage.
People can challenge theft charges with a legal defense. A few possible defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not know they were taking something,
- they borrowed the property in question, and/or
- they were the true owner of the property or services.
A violation of ARS 13-1802 is either a simple misdemeanor or a felony offense. The value of the property taken will determine which type of offense ultimately gets charged and the final penalty that gets imposed.
Violations of this statute can lead to significant jail or prison time and they can lead to charges of a:
- Class 2 felony,
- Class 3 felony,
- Class 4 felony,
- Class 5 felony,
- Class 6 felony, or
- Class 1 misdemeanor.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “theft”?
ARS 13-1802 sets forth several specific ways in which a person can commit an Arizona theft offense. These include when a person knowingly:
- uses someone else’s property with the intent to steal it or permanently deprive the owner of it,i
- takes someone’s property or services after being entrusted with such goods/services and acting without authority to use such goods/services,
- obtains the services or property of another by means of fraud,ii
- comes into control of lost property without taking reasonable efforts to find the true owner,
- controls property of another knowing or having reason to know that the property was stolen, and
- uses services without paying for them or otherwise providing any form of adequate consideration.iii
Per Arizona’s criminal code on theft, a person also commits this crime if, without lawful authority, the person:
- knowingly takes control, title, use or management of a vulnerable adult’s property while acting in a position of trust and confidence, and
- does so with the intent to deprive the vulnerable adult of the property.iv
For purposes of this criminal law:
- “property” includes all forms of real property and personal property,v and
- “vulnerable adult” means an individual who is eighteen years of age or older and who is unable to protect himself from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others because of a physical or mental impairment.vi
A conviction of the theft of any property does not require that a person permanently deprive the owner of that property. The accused only has to take some property with the intent to deprive the owner of it, for whatever time.vii
Note that shoplifting is a type of theft crime in Arizona but is addressed under ARS 13-1805.
2. Are there defenses to charges brought under ARS 13-1802?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies/disclaimers to contest criminal charges brought under this statute. Three common ones include showing that accused people:
- did not commit an act knowingly.
- borrowed some property.
- were the true owner of the property.
2.1 No knowledge
Recall that people are only guilty of theft if they act knowingly. A defense, then, is for defendants to show that they did not take something while knowing that they were actually stealing something.
Consider, for example, a person studying next to someone else in a crowded library. If this person packs up the other person’s book on accident, the person is not guilty of theft. He/she packed up the book without knowingly doing so.
2.2 Borrowing property
People can avoid guilt under this statute by saying that they were borrowing another person’s property. Borrowing implies that they:
- were going to return the property, and
- did not act with an intent to deprive the owner of the property.
2.3 True owner
It is always a defense to theft charges for an accused to show that he/she was the true owner of some property. Consider, for example, two roommates that get into a heated argument. One accuses the other of taking her laptop. If the accused person can show that she truly owned the computer, she is not guilty of a crime.
3. What are the penalties?
The specific penalties for theft depend on the value of the property or services that were taken.
Theft of property or services valued at $25,000 or more is a Class 2 felony. A first offense is punishable by three to 12 plus years in state prison.
Theft of property or services valued between $4,000 and $25,000 is a Class 3 felony. First-time offenders convicted of a Class 3 felony face a prison term of between two and eight plus years.
Theft of property or services valued between $3,000 and $4,000 is a Class 4 felony punishable by one to just under four years in prison.
Theft of property or services valued between $2,000 and $3,000 is a Class 5 felony punishable by six months to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Theft of property or services valued between $1,000 and $2,000 is a Class 6 felony punishable by four months to two years in prison.
Theft of property or services valued under $1,000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Misdemeanor theft is punishable by up to six months in jail.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to theft. These are:
4.1 Burglary – ARS 13-1507
Burglary, per ARS 13-1507, is when a person:
- unlawfully enters or remains in or on a residential structure, and
- does so with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein.
Unlike with ARS 13-1802, this statute requires that a person:
- commit theft, and
- do another act (that is enter or remain on someone’s property).
4.2 Robbery – ARS 13-1902
Robbery, per ARS 13-1902, is the crime where a person:
- threatens or uses force against another while taking property from that person, and
- does so with the intent to make the other person surrender the property.
Note that unlike with simple theft, robbery requires an offender to threaten another or use some type of force.
4.3 Embezzlement – ARS 13-1802A2
Under ARS 13-1802A2, embezzlement is when:
- someone entrusts a person with certain property, and
- the person converts the property to his/her own for an unauthorized term or use.
An example of embezzlement is when a bank teller pockets a person’s deposits.
Embezzlement is a form of theft and is punishable in the same manner as any other theft crime under ARS 13-1802.
- See, for example, State v. Watson, 248 Ariz. 208 (2020).
- See, for example, State v. Borquez, 232 Ariz. 484 (2013).
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1802 Subsection A. See also State v. Jernigan, 221 Ariz. 17 (2009).
- ARS 13-1802B.
- ARS 13-1802K5.
- ARS 13-1802K6 and ARS 46-451.
- In re Juvenile Action No. J-98065, 141 Ariz. 404 (1984).