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Loss in Sentencing

January 2, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

In embezzlement cases throughout the United States that are tried on a state or federal level, loss is a term used in theft crimes. It describes the value of property or money that was lost in the theft. The higher the theft, the higher the amount of loss. The higher the loss, the more damage that’s done to the victim. Greater damage to the victim means the potential for a longer sentence for the accused.

The amount of loss has an effect on how your case will proceed. It’s important to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer so they can examine the facts of your case and discuss with you the ways that loss might affect your sentencing. A good lawyer will create a compelling defense that helps to mitigate or lessen the penalties associated with the charge you’ve been accused of.

Degrees of Loss

Different state and federal guidelines have different sentencing ranges depending on the degree of loss. Degrees of loss are outlined in terms of the monetary value of the property or money that was stolen. Some of the penalty ranges are rather large, however. For example, a person who steals $80,000 and a person who steals $800,000 will be charged with the same degree of crime, even though one stole ten times as much as the other. With that said, the person who stole the larger amount will likely face a sentence on the higher end of the guideline range.

Intended Loss and Actual Loss

There is a difference between the intended loss and the actual loss. When a case is being argued in court, the only number that matters is the actual loss. Intended loss tends to be considered irrelevant when theft case are being debated. If a person didn’t intend for the victim to lose as much as they did, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is how much the victim actually did lose. As soon as the accused completed the criminal actions, they have committed a crime regardless of their intent.

On the flip side, someone might intend to steal more money than they actually have stolen. They can’t be prosecuted for their intentions; they can only be prosecuted for the amount of money they have already stolen. There is one situation where this isn’t the case, though. While you can’t be charged with theft for intending to steal something, you can be hit with an attempted theft charge. In cases of attempted theft, the amount that you intended to steal can be used by the prosecution as the base level of your crime.

Because attempts are not completed thefts, they aren’t as severe. An attempted crime takes the degree of the actual crime and lowers it by one. If you tried to steal a quarter of a million dollars, you’d have committed a Class C offense of grand larceny in the second degree. But since the theft wasn’t actually completed and was only attempted, the degree would be dropped to grand larceny in the third degree, which is only a class D felony.

If that’s the case, then the maximum prison term would go from fifteen years of incarceration to seven years of incarceration. Even so, there would still be minimum sentencing times, and you’d have a felony conviction on your record.

Impact of Loss on Sentencing

Guidelines have been written regarding the amount of loss present in theft cases.

If a theft included more than one thousand dollars of money or property being stolen, it goes from being a misdemeanor to a class E felony. Though this is the most minor form of felony, it can still come with a sentence of up to four years of incarceration. When you steal more than $3,000, you reach a class D felony, which has a maximum prison sentence of seven years. $50,000 dollars stolen is a class C felony, which ratchets up to potentially fifteen years in prison. If you steal more than one million dollars, it’s considered a class B felony. Class B felonies are punishable by a maximum of 25 years in prison.

The degrees of the charge vary depending on where an individual falls in the range. If you’ve stolen closer to a million dollars, you’re more likely to be charged with a first degree crime. If you’re at the lower threshold of the range, you might be charged with a second or third degree crime.

After the loss has determined what charge is brought against you, the judge will sentence you by choosing a sentence from the outlined range. This is up to their discretion and will vary depending on how the crime was committed, whether it was ongoing, what was taken, and what consequences and lasting impact their actions had on the victim.

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