In common usage, theft is the taking of another person's property or services without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting, library theft, and fraud (obtaining money under false pretenses). In some jurisdictions, theft is considered to be synonymous with larceny; in others, theft has replaced larceny. Someone who carries out an act of or makes a career of theft is known as a thief. The act of theft is also known by other terms such as stealing, thieving, and filching.
Sections 2 to 6 of the Theft Act 1968 have effect as regards the interpretation and operation of section 1 of that Act. Except as otherwise provided by that Act, sections 2 to 6 of that Act apply only for the purposes of section 1 of that Act.
Section 6 "with the intent to permanently deprive the other of it" is sufficiently flexible to include situations where the property is later returned. For example, suppose that B, a keen football fan, has bought a ticket for the next home match. T takes the ticket, watches the match and then returns the ticket to B. In this instance, all that T returns is a piece of paper. Its value as a licence to enter the stadium on a particular day has been permanently lost. Hence, T steals the ticket. Similarly, if T takes a valuable antique but later repents and returns the goods, T has committed the actus reus with the mens rea. The fact that T's conscience forces a change of mind is relevant only for sentencing.
Theft is triable either way. A person guilty of theft is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum, or to both.
In the United States, crimes must be prosecuted in the jurisdiction in which they occurred. Although federal and state jurisdiction may overlap, even when a criminal act violates both state and federal law, in most cases only the most serious offenses are prosecuted at the federal level.
Theft laws, including the distinction between grand theft and petty theft for cases falling within its jurisdiction, vary by state. This distinction is established by statute, as are the penological consequences. Most commonly, statutes establishing the distinction between grand theft and petty theft do so on the basis of the value of the money or property taken by the thief or lost by the victim, with the dollar threshold for grand theft varying from state to state. Most commonly, the penological consequences of the distinction include the significant one that grand theft can be treated as a felony, while petty theft is generally treated as a misdemeanor.
The Alaska State Code does not use the terms "grand theft" or "grand larceny." However, it specifies that theft of property valued at more than $1,000 is a felony whereas thefts of lesser amounts are misdemeanors. The felony categories (class 1 and class 2 theft) also include theft of firearms; property taken from the person of another; vessel or aircraft safety or survival equipment; and of access devices.
There are a number of criminal statutes in the California Penal Code defining grand theft in different amounts. Grand theft generally consists of the theft of something of value over $950 (including money, labor or property but is lower with respect to various specified property), Theft is also considered grand theft when more than $250 in crops or marine life forms are stolen, ñwhen the property is taken from the person of another,ò or when the property stolen is an automobile, farm animal, or firearm.
KRS 514.030 states that theft by unlawful taking or disposition is generally a Class A misdemeanor unless the items stolen are a firearm, anhydrous ammonia, a controlled substance valued at less than $10,000 or any other item or combination of items valued $500 or higher and less than $10,000 in which case the theft is a Class D felony. Theft of items valued at $10,000 or higher and less than $1,000,000 is a Class C felony. Theft of items valued at $1,000,000 or more is a Class B felony, as is first offense theft of anhydrous ammonia for the express purpose of manufacturing methamphetamines in violation of KRS 218A.1432. In the latter case, subsequent offenses are a Class A felony.