Facing charges for theft can mean that you are facing a felony charge or a misdemeanor charge. The difference between the classifications has to do with the value of the items that were taken. The higher the value, the higher the charge. Other factors can also affect the type of charge that you will face.
Generally, if the value is less than $200, you will face a disorderly persons offense. If the value is $200 to $500, the crime is a fourth-degree felony. If the value is $500 to $75,000, you will likely face a third-degree felony. If the value is more than $75,000, you face a second-degree felony.
Since the value is such a big component in the charges that are filed against a person, you should understand how value is assessed. For the purpose of criminal charges, the value of an item is the fair market value at the time of the theft. This is the amount of money that a seller would accept and a buyer would agree to pay if the item was sold on the day of the theft. The prosecution will have to prove that the fair market value given to the items is accurate.
When it comes to the possible penalties that you face, the more serious the theft charge, the more severe the penalties. A disorderly persons offense won't carry penalties as harsh as the second-degree felony charge.
Another factor that can affect sentencing if you are convicted is your criminal history. If you have a history of theft convictions, you might face harsher penalties than a first-time offender would face. The defense you present might also play a part in the sentence you receive, so it is best to have a well-prepared defense when you go to face the charges filed against you.
Source: FindLaw, "Theft Penalties and Sentencing," accessed Feb. 20, 2016