At Mashni Law Criminal Defense, we understand the serious and sensitive nature of facing theft charges in Kentucky. Theft, encompassing a broad spectrum of illegal activities such as shoplifting, unauthorized taking of property, and burglary, can have dire legal and personal consequences. Kentucky law treats theft offenses with severity, potentially resulting in significant fines, restitution, community service, and even imprisonment. These repercussions can have a profound impact on your reputation, career opportunities, and personal relationships. Our Lexington-based law firm is committed to providing a vigorous and nuanced defense for our clients, employing a comprehensive understanding of Kentucky's theft laws and a dedication to meticulous case preparation. We are here to help mitigate the charges against you and strive for the most favorable outcome possible, preserving your future and your freedom.

If you're grappling with the implications of a theft charge in Kentucky, immediate legal counsel is paramount. Call our office or schedule a free case evaluation today and discover how Mashni Law Criminal Defense can assist in navigating these challenging circumstances with expertise and empathy.

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In Kentucky, Theft occurs when a person intends to and actually does deprive another of the other’s property. Theft occurs when the other person is deprived of their property permanently, or for such an extended period of time that the value of that property taken from the other loses a major portion of its economic value. 

The basic theft offense is theft by unlawful taking or disposition, which is defined in KRS §514.030. This offense often appears on citations as “TBUT” followed by a dollar value of the property taken. To be guilty of theft by unlawful taking offense, a person must take control over movable property of another with intent to deprive him or her of that property or obtain immovable property of another person or any interest in that immovable property with the intention of benefitting him- or herself or another person who is not intitled to that property, such as a rental unit. 


  • At base level, theft by unlawful taking is a Class B misdemeanor. However, the penalties change depending on the value of the property taken. Some types of property also change the penalties for the theft. 
  • If the property taken is a firearm, then the theft is a Class D felony regardless of the value of the firearm. 
  • If the property is one or more controlled substances valued collectively at less than $10,000, the theft is a Class D felony.
  • If the value of the property taken is equal to or greater than $500 but less than $1,000 the theft is a Class A misdemeanor. 
  • If the value of the property taken is equal to or greater than $1,000 but less than $10,000 the theft is a Class D felony. 
  • If the value of the property taken is equal to or greater than $10,000 but less than $1,000,000 then it is a Class C felony.
  • If the value of the property is equal to or greater than $1,000,000 but less than $10,000,000 then the offense is a Class B felony. It is also a Class B felony if the value of the property taken is $10,000,000 or more – and in this case, the person, if convicted, will not be eligible for probation or parole unless and until he or she has served at least 50% of the sentence imposed. 
  • If the theft occurs during a natural or man-made declared emergency, within the area covered by the emergency declaration, and within the area impacted by the disaster, then the person committing the offense will be charged with one level higher than he or she would have been charged otherwise. For example, if a person is charged under this circumstance and he or she would have originally been charged with a Class B misdemeanor, he or she would then be charged with a Class A misdemeanor instead. 
  • Certain types of theft outlined in the theft by unlawful taking statute carry enhanced penalties for certain types of conduct or for second or subsequent offenses. 
  • If the property taken is anhydrous ammonia, then the theft is a Class D felony regardless of the value of the ammonia. However, if it is proven that the ammonia was intended to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, the theft is a Class B felony for the first offense and a Class A felony for each subsequent offense.
  • For those who have had three or more convictions within a five-year period for theft by unlawful taking of property that is valued at equal to or greater than $500 but less than $1,000 then the offense is a Class D felony. 


There are many types of theft prohibited by law. Some other types of theft include, but are not limited to the following.

  • Theft by deception as defined in KRS §514.040
  • Theft of services as defined in KRS §514.060
  • Theft by extortion as defined in KRS §514.080
  • Receiving stolen property as defined in KRS §514.110
  • Theft of Identity as defined in KRS §514.160

Some more serious crimes that include theft as an element are robbery and sometimes burglary.


Three main elements must be proven for a conviction of theft: (1) that the defendant intended to take the moveable or immovable property, (2) that the defendant intended that the deprivation be permanent or near permanent as described above, and (3) that the property was actually taken. Other elements may require proving as well, as defined in different subsection of the theft by unlawful taking statute or other statutes. For example, the value or type of property must be proven. 


To deprive means to withhold property of another permanently or for so extended a period of time as to appropriate a major portion of its economic value or with intent to restore only upon payment of reward or compensation. It also means to dispose of the property so as to make it unlikely that the owner will recover it.

Movable property means property the location of which can be changed, including things growing on, affixed to, or found in land, and documents although the rights represented by the documents have no physical location. Immovable property is all other property. 

To obtain in relation to property means to bring about a transfer or purported transfer from another person of a legal interest in the property, whether to the obtainer or another. In relation to labor or services, to obtain means to secure the performance thereof. 

Property means anything of value, including real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, contract rights, documents, choses-in-action and other interests in or claims to wealth, admission or transportation tickets, captured or domestic animals, food and drink. 

Receiving means acquiring possession, control or title or lending on the security of the property. 

Services includes labor, professional advice, transportation, telephone, electricity, gas, water or other public service, accommodation in hotels, restaurants or elsewhere, admission to exhibition, use of vehicles or other movable property. 


Examples of theft: 

  • A person who is a passenger in a car that is the object of theft may or may not be equally guilty of the theft of that car if the passenger is acting in concert with the driver as to taking the vehicle. Lunce v. Com., 160 S.W.2d 3 (Ky. 1942).  
  • A person who abandons property previously and unlawfully taken from another may or may not be guilty of theft. If the person who took the property abandoned it with the intent that the rightful possessor of the property recovers the property, then the intent element of theft is not satisfied. If the person abandoned the taken property with the intention that the property’s rightful possessor does not recover the property, then the intent element of theft is satisfied. Hall v. Commonwealth, 551 S.W.3d 7 (Ky. 2018). 


KRS §514.020 contains the general provisions to the theft and theft-related offenses. It also includes some defenses. 

It is a defense to prosecution for theft that the actor was unaware that the property or service was that of another, or acted under a claim of right to the property or service involved or a claim that he had a right to acquire or dispose of the property as he did, or took property exposed for sale, intending to purchase and pay for it promptly, or reasonably believed that the owner (if present) would have consented.

It is not a defense that the theft was from the actor’s spouse, except that misappropriation of household and personal effects or other property normally accessible to both spouses is theft only if it involves the property of the other spouse and only if it occurs after the parties have ceased living together.

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