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How to Get a Theft Charge Dismissed in Minnesota

Facing theft charges can be intimidating for most people. A criminal conviction of any kind can impact your life, and theft charges are no exception. This is especially true in cases where the case is treated as a felony.

Facing a theft charge might be intimidating, but it does not have to lead to a conviction. If you aggressively fight back with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you could have the charges against you dismissed.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what it takes to build a strong defense. This could include having the charges against you dismissed, prevailing at trial, or reaching a viable plea bargain. Reach out to us as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation.

What Constitutes Theft Charges?

There are many different ways to violate Minnesota theft laws under Minnesota law. However, most of these offenses are covered by a single statute. Unlike other jurisdictions, Minnesota covers these offenses under one statute instead of setting out numerous statutes for each offense.

In Minnesota, theft crimes are covered by Minnesota Statute Section 609.52. The law encompasses a wide range of behaviors that constitute theft, any of which could lead to a criminal conviction. Some examples include:

  • Intentionally taking, using, transferring, concealing, or keeping possession of another’s movable property without permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
  • Finding lost property and, despite knowing or having the means to locate the true owner, keeping it for oneself or another without making a reasonable effort to return it.
  • Altering, removing, or destroying identifying numbers or symbols on movable property without the owner’s permission, to prevent identification.

These are just a few examples of actions that can lead to a theft conviction. While the specific details of each case may vary, the potential consequences are significant, making it crucial to fight for a dismissal or the best possible outcome.

Image explaining how the value of the property stolen determines whether a theft offense is considered petty theft, a misdemeanor, or a gross misdemeanor under Minnesota law.

Can My Case Be Dismissed?

The first thing to remember about your theft case is that the charges against you could be dismissed. This is often the best possible outcome after an arrest for theft, as it means you avoid a criminal conviction without the risks associated with trial. However, there are limits on the power to dismiss your case. Only certain parties have the right to dismiss your case following an arrest, and failing to get a dismissal could result in severe criminal penalties, including jail time, fines, and enhanced penalties based on the property’s value or prior criminal record.

Prosecutors Can Dismiss Your Case

The power to dismiss your theft case rests primarily with the prosecution. The prosecuting attorney will ultimately decide if charges are brought against you, and prior to the trial they also have the power to dismiss those charges as well, especially in cases involving various theft offenses.

The ability to dismiss a case is one thing. The willingness to do so is another. Many prosecutors are willing to pursue a weak case in hopes of securing a conviction regardless of the evidence. Thankfully, your attorney could build a strong defense strategy to push the prosecutor to dismiss your case.

Prosecutors don’t like to lose. If your attorney can show that a conviction is unlikely, some prosecutors will agree to dismiss the case. Even if they don’t, the strong defense strategy could compel a judge to get rid of the charges against you.

The Police Cannot Dismiss Your Case

The police have the power to arrest you for a misdemeanor theft charge. However, they do not have the power to dismiss criminal charges against you. Once charges have been filed in your case, the police are no longer involved in the process outside of testifying against you at trial.

Image demonstrating the different outcomes for a misdemeanor theft charge, including potential for dismissal or a criminal record depending on the case circumstances.

The Judge Can Dismiss Your Case

You are not out of luck, even if the prosecution refuses to dismiss the case against you. You could still seek dismissal from the court by filing a motion with the court. The judge who hears your case also has the power to dismiss the charges against you. However, they will typically not do so on their own. Filing a motion with the court to dismiss all charges is the best way for the judge to consider the issue.

There must be a concrete reason for the judge to agree to dismiss a theft charge. This usually comes in the form of suppressing certain evidence. If the police searched you illegally, your attorney could have that evidence excluded from trial. If enough evidence against you is suppressed, the court might agree that moving forward with a trial would be improper. Additionally, even if the criminal charges are dismissed, you may still face civil penalties. These civil penalties can include reimbursing the victim for the stolen property and paying punitive damages, which can have long-term impacts on your life beyond the criminal consequences.

Viable Defense Options Could Help Avoid a Theft Conviction

A judge or prosecutor will not dismiss the theft charges against you on a whim. You will need a strong defense strategy that spells out why your charges should be dropped, or at least why the state is unlikely to secure a conviction at trial. The good news is that there are multiple defense strategies available in a theft case, including those involving gross misdemeanor theft. This type of theft is determined by the value of the stolen property or services, usually falling between $500 and $1,000, and carries potential penalties such as jail time and fines. The challenge is identifying the right defense strategy for you.

Mistaken Identity

The state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you are the party that committed the theft in question. It is not enough to show that a theft happened, as you could make the case that it was committed by someone else. Sometimes, the police will mistakenly arrest the wrong person. Mistaken identity is a common defense in theft cases, as these acts often occur when there are no witnesses present. Additionally, the type of property stolen and the circumstances involved can complicate the identification process.

Lack of Evidence

One of the best defenses in a theft case is often the simplest. It is important to remember that you are not obligated to build a defense at all. Instead, the state must prove you are guilty. If the prosecution lacks the evidence needed to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, including the value of the property involved, your best defense strategy could be to focus on the weakness of the case against you.


Theft involves the wrongful taking of another person’s personal property without their freely-given consent. Some theft cases result entirely from a misunderstanding where the accused had permission to take the property in question. If you had consent from the property owner, a theft charge is not appropriate.


Theft is a crime that includes criminal intent, whether it involves property or services stolen. In other words, you must intend to commit theft in order to be guilty of the offense. You cannot mistakenly commit an act of theft, as unknowingly taking something that does not belong to you does not have the required criminal intent.

Of course, this defense is not perfect. Only you can know your intent, and the prosecution could claim your accidental taking of property was intended all along. Our attorneys could help you maximize the chances of success with a mistake defense.

Illegal Search or Seizure

Many arrests in theft cases occur after the stolen property or services are found during a police search. Finding this property in the possession of the accused is often central to the state’s case. If the search that turned up that property was illegal, that evidence could be barred at trial.

The police have limits on their ability to search and seize property. If the officers search your property illegally, your attorney could move to have that evidence excluded at trial. Without the evidence, the prosecution could be forced to drop the charges against you.

An image displaying the potential penalties for a first offense misdemeanor theft in Minnesota, ranging from fines to jail time depending on the value of the property stolen.

Talk to an Attorney About your Felony Theft Charge

With the right defense strategy and legal counsel, it could be possible to see your theft charges dismissed. Even if your efforts are not successful, you could build a defense strategy that is strong enough to prevail at trial. This is especially important in cases of felony theft, where the penalties can be severe, including prison sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years and fines from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the value of the stolen property.

Gerald Miller’s attorneys understand how to get a theft charge dismissed in Minnesota. We are also prepared to build the strongest defense possible in your case should it go to trial. Contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Related Content: What Happens if Someone Presses Theft Charges Against You?

About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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