The Consequences of a Theft Conviction in Tennessee

In Tennessee, a theft crime conviction is serious, and the consequences can last long after jail time ends. You could be facing fines, court costs, and restitution payments for the allegedly stolen property. Your personal reputation may also suffer, causing life-long problems such as difficulty finding employment or accessing.

In this article, we explore the potential penalties related to theft convictions in Tennessee and outline solutions for managing them both now and in the future.

Overview of Tennessee’s Theft Laws and Penalties

Tennessee's theft laws cover a broad range of offenses, from shoplifting to embezzlement. The penalties for these crimes depend on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances of the crime.

Petty theft, which involves the theft of items valued at less than $1,000, is a misdemeanor offense. It can result in fines, community service, and up to one year in jail.

Grand theft, which involves the theft of property valued at $1,000 or more, is a felony offense that carries steeper penalties. These include prison time, restitution for the victim, and a permanent criminal record.

Additionally, Tennessee has enhanced penalties for certain types of theft. These include stealing from someone over 65 or stealing a car.

Collateral Consequences of a Theft Conviction

A theft conviction in Tennessee can have far-reaching consequences beyond the immediate punishment. Collateral consequences of a theft conviction can include the loss of driving privileges, difficulty obtaining employment, and increased insurance rates.

Losing your driver's license can make everyday tasks more difficult, such as grocery shopping, commuting to work, and running errands.

Finding employment can be challenging due to the stigma attached to a theft conviction. This is particularly frustrating for individuals who have served their time and are eager to rebuild their lives.

Increased insurance rates make it harder to own a vehicle.

The Difference Between Restitution and Reparations for Theft Crimes

Restitution is a court-ordered payment that the offender makes to the victim, compensating them for the loss or damages.

Reparations, on the other hand, are a form of financial assistance. The state government can give reparations to victims of violent crimes, such as assault or robbery. The goal of reparations is to help victims rebuild their lives after a traumatic incident.

If you are ordered to pay the alleged victim of a crime, you are paying restitution. Understanding the difference is important to understanding your overall allegations and defense.

Having Your Record Expunged or Sealed Following a Theft Conviction in Tennessee

There may be an opportunity to expunge or seal your record after a theft conviction. This all depends on the circumstances of your case and your behavior afterward.

The first step is to ensure that all fines, court costs, and fees associated with the case have been paid in full.

If there was any probation or other court-ordered supervision, comply with all terms and complete the required period.

After these initial requirements have been met, you can file a petition for expungement or sealing with the court.

We strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel when pursuing this process. Patton & Pittman Attorneys has experience in this area, so feel free to reach out to us for help.

Defenses Against Theft Crime Allegations

Lack of Intent

Argue that there was no intention to commit theft. For example, the accused may have confused someone’s property with their own.

Mistaken Identity

Another defense is to claim mistaken identity. This can be effective when the evidence suggests that you were not present at the scene of the crime or there are inconsistencies in witness testimonies.


The defense can argue that you obtained consent from the owner to take the property, or you had a reasonable belief that you could. This defense is particularly relevant in cases when there is a dispute over ownership.

Lack of Evidence

If the prosecution fails to provide sufficient evidence, you can argue for acquittal.


If the accused can demonstrate that they were coerced or induced by law enforcement to commit the theft, they may have a valid defense of entrapment.


If the accused committed the crime under threat or coercion, they could argue that they acted out of fear for their safety or the safety of others.

Honest Belief of Right

Some jurisdictions recognize the defense of an honest belief of right. In these cases, the accused must demonstrate that they honestly believed they had a legal right to take the property.

Our firm is here to stand by your side and help fight theft charges. If you need assistance, contact us online or call us at (931) 361-4477.

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