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Property Offenses


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The following is not legal advice but is for information only. Legal advice is when an attorney applies the law to a person's individual circumstances and advises them on their legal options or potential exposure to legal harm, which a web page clearly does not.


There are several statutes that define theft in different ways. In most (but not all) circumstances, the value of the property at issue determines the class of offense which, in turn, determines the maximum potential punishment and whether it is regarded as a felony or a misdemeanor. However, other facts, such as prior theft convictions or theft of firearms, will also be a factor.

Theft by Unauthorized Taking

A person commits theft by unauthorized taking if they take or transfer property of another person with the intent to deprive them of it, without their consent, and without any claim of right to the property. That is legally defined as exercising unauthorized control. The moment someone picks up an object with an intent to take it, that is a theft - even if they put it back. Proving intent is the difficulty in that scenario, but it demonstrates how far the law reaches in terms of conduct that can become a criminal offense.

The law further specifies that theft can be classified as a Class E, Class D, Class C, Class B, or Class A crime depending on the value of the property stolen. Classes A to C are felonies, while Classes D and E are misdemeanors.

Other factors are also used to determine the potential penalty and class of offense. When a person is armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of the act, that can be charged as a Class B offense. If a person has two or more prior convictions for theft, that can also be charged as a felony, Class C, even for just stealing a candy bar.


Maine law also includes provisions for the forfeiture of stolen property and allows the court to order restitution to the victim. This would be in addition to any fines or fees (or imprisonment) imposed.

Theft by extortion

This is a felony (Class C) that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Other statutes, such as use of a firearm, can enhance that penalty and raise the Class of offense.


Theft by extortion is proved when someone exercises control over someone else's property that was obtained by threatening physical harm in the future to another person or to property or would harm someone's health, safety, business, career, reputation, finances, or personal relationships.

Theft by deception 

This type of theft occurs when a person intentionally obtains or exercises unauthorized control over another person's property that was obtained by deception. Deception is defined as intentionally creating or reinforcing a false impression, including but not limited to, creating or confirming a false impression as to law, value, intention, or other state of mind. The person who is deceiving also has to know that the falsity is not true or fail to correct a wrong impression.

In simpler terms, theft by deception occurs when someone tricks or deceives another person into giving them something of value, such as money or property, by creating a false impression or lying about something important. For example, if someone pretends to be a bank representative and tricks a person into giving them their bank account information, that would be considered theft by deception. Lying about being a member of the Armed Forces for gain would also fit. Transferring property with a lien attached and not disclosing it is also mentioned in the statute. The penalties and classes of crime for theft by deception under this law also depend on the value of the property stolen. The statute also makes it clear that it is not a defense that the property at issue has no cash value.


The default level of Class for this offense is Class E - which carries a potential six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. A Class E offense is a lower level misdemeanor. However, the higher the value of the property at issue (although not always) determines the class of crime and, therefore, the potential punishment. Prior convictions may also play a part if they are substantially similar.

Insurance deception

Insurance deception is defined as intentionally and knowingly presenting false or misleading information or making a false statement in connection with an insurance claim, application, or renewal.

Intentionally refers to a deliberate act that is done on purpose. If a person acts intentionally, it means that they intended the consequences of their actions. Knowingly refers to an awareness or knowledge of the nature of one's actions or the circumstances surrounding them. If a person acts knowingly, it means that they knew or should have known that their actions would cause a particular result.

To prove insurance deception under this statute, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. First, the defendant made a false or misleading statement or presented false information. Second, the statement or information was made in connection with an insurance claim, application, or renewal. Third, the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly in making the false statement or presenting false information (the intent element). Fourth, the false statement or information was material to the insurance claim, application, or renewal. Fifth, the defendant's actions resulted in the insurance company suffering a loss or being exposed to the risk of a loss.

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