A theft by deception charge falls under the broader category of theft crimes in the Nebraska statutes.
In short, theft by deception means taking the property of another by using false words or actions. The offense has other aspects to it, which we will discuss later.
You must take these charges seriously by speaking with a highly experienced Omaha lawyer who focuses solely on criminal defense.
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What Is Theft by Deception?
Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-512 explains the state’s theft by deception charge. Using some form of deceit to take another’s property is the essence of the crime. Therefore, you should understand how the law defines deceit.
According to § 28-512, deceiving another person means:
- Creating or reinforcing a false impression, including a false impression of law, value, intention, or some other state of mind;
- Preventing another person from acquiring information that could affect an individual’s judgment of a transaction;
- Failing to correct a false impression previously made or reinforced or influencing another person while acting as a fiduciary or in a confidential relationship; or
- Using a charge plate, credit card, or another instrument to pay for services or property where the instrument was stolen, forged, revoked, or canceled, the actor does not have the authority to use the instrument, or the person passing the instrument has neither the intention nor ability to pay.
The definition of deceive does not apply to words or actions with no financial value or statements that would not deceive an ordinary person.
According to the statute, theft by deception does not arise because the person did not perform as promised. Moreover, the offense can take place over a long time.
Finally, deception can be words or actions that create a false impression to obtain another person’s property.
What Does Theft by Deception Mean?
The definition of theft by deception is hard to understand, so using some examples might help clarify the concept. We will start by saying the crime of theft by deception means more than a simple breach of contract.
For instance, suppose you are a general contractor hired by someone to build a patio. You take a down payment of 75% and never show up again. Is that a crime or breach of contract?
You would have to promise to perform the work knowing you have no intention of doing so just to get the downpayment before you would face criminal charges.
Starting and only working until you finish part of the project is more likely to give rise to a breach of contract action rather than a criminal offense.
Another example might be telling someone who wants to buy your business that they don’t need to look at your books because they can trust your word on the company’s value, knowing that you are inflating and misrepresenting the true value.
Or, you could be committing a crime by creating fake customers or intentionally altering the books to make your business look more profitable—just to get the buyer to pay more for your company.
Another example would be an investment manager who advises a client to purchase a risky investment, so the manager gets their commission, all while the manager knows the client will lose money.
Finally, § 28-512 might apply if you steal someone’s checks or credit cards and obtain property, knowing that the person who parts with the property will never receive payment.
Please note that mistakes do not create a crime, so accidentally bouncing a check does not qualify as a crime under this section.
On the other hand, intentionally writing bad checks may allow the prosecutor to bring a theft by deception charge against you.
What Is the Penalty for Theft by Deception?
The value of the stolen property determines the category of offense. According to Nebraska Revised Statutes § 28-518, the following categories apply.
- A Class IIA felony occurs when the value of the stolen property exceeds $5,000. This offense carries up to 20 years in prison.
- A Class IV felony occurs when the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000. This offense carries up to two years in prison.
- A Class I misdemeanor occurs when the value of the stolen property exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500. The sentence for this offense cannot exceed one year in jail.
- A Class II misdemeanor occurs when the value of the stolen property is less than $500. This crime carries up to six months in jail.
The law determines that the stolen property’s value is an essential element of the crime. Therefore the prosecutor bears the burden of proving the value beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, the prosecutor can add the value of stolen items together to charge you with a more serious crime.