The broadest definition of the crime of theft is the taking of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it.  Although this may seem self-explanatory, the crime of theft has come to mean many different things in our modern e-society.  Although the traditional meaning still applies, the crime of theft now also includes such activities as computer tampering, unlawfully recording copyrighted sounds or images, identity theft, and benefits fraud.  This is because the definition of “taking” has been expanded to mean practically any unauthorized control of another’s property.  For example, it is considered theft to possess property that you know was stolen, regardless of whether you are the one who stole it.  Likewise, identity theft is the crime of stealing, possessing, or using the personal information of another in order to obtain things of value, commit a crime, or damage that person’s reputation or property.  In those cases, the thief may not actually “take” anything other than information, but their unauthorized control over that information is what makes the act criminal.


Punishments for theft crimes vary greatly depending on the value of the property and the circumstances of the taking.  For instance, if the theft involved the property of a school, religious institution, government entity or non-profit organization, the penalties are more severe.  However, in general the penalties for theft are guided by the value of the property.