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New Hampshire Theft Laws
New Hampshire Theft Laws




Section 637:1

637:1 Consolidation. - Conduct denominated theft in this chapter constitutes a single offense embracing the separate offenses such as those heretofore known as larceny, larceny by trick, larceny by bailees, embezzlement, false pretense, extortion, blackmail, receiving stolen property. An accusation of theft may be supported by evidence that it was committed in any manner that would be theft under this chapter, notwithstanding the specification of a different manner in the indictment or information.

Section 637:2

637:2 Definitions. - The following definitions are applicable to this chapter:
    I. ""Property'' means anything of value, including real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, captured or domestic animals and birds, written instruments or other writings representing or embodying rights concerning real or personal property, labor, services, or otherwise containing any thing of value to the owner, commodities of a public utility nature such as telecommunications, gas, electricity, steam, or water, and trade secrets, meaning the whole or any portion of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula or invention which the owner thereof intends to be available only to persons selected by him.
    II. ""Obtain'' means, in relation to property, to bring about a transfer of possession or of some other legally recognized interest in property, whether to the obtainer or another; in relation to labor or services, to secure performance thereof; and in relation to a trade secret, to make any facsimile, replica, photograph or other reproduction.
    III. ""Purpose to deprive'' means to have the conscious object:
       (a) To withhold property permanently or for so extended a period or to use under such circumstances that a substantial portion of its economic value, or of the use and benefit thereof, would be lost; or
       (b) To restore the property only upon payment of a reward or other compensation; or
       (c) To dispose of the property under circumstances that make it unlikely that the owner will recover it.
    IV. ""Property of another'' includes property in which any person other than the actor has an interest which the actor is not privileged to infringe, regardless of the fact that the actor also has an interest in the property and regardless of the fact that the other person might be precluded from civil recovery because the property was used in an unlawful transaction or was subject to forfeiture as contraband. Property in possession of the actor shall not be deemed property of another who has only a security interest therein, even if legal title is in the creditor pursuant to a conditional sales contract or other security agreement.
    V. ""Value'' means the highest amount determined by any reasonable standard of property or services.
       (a) Amounts involved in thefts committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same person or several persons, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.
       (b) The value of property or services obtained by the actor shall determine the grade of the offense, and such value shall not be offset against or reduced by the value of any property or services given by the actor in exchange.
       (c) Each personal check or credit card shall have a value of $250.

Section 637:3

637:3 Theft by Unauthorized Taking or Transfer. -
    I. A person commits theft if he obtains or exercises unauthorized control over the property of another with a purpose to deprive him thereof.
    II. As used in this section and RSA 637:4 and 5, ""obtain or exercise unauthorized control'' includes but is not necessarily limited to conduct heretofore defined or known as common law larceny by trespassory taking, larceny by conversion, larceny by bailee, and embezzlement.

Section 637:4

637:4 Theft by Deception. -
    I. A person commits theft if he obtains or exercises control over property of another by deception and with a purpose to deprive him thereof.
    II. For the purposes of this section, deception occurs when a person purposely:
       (a) Creates or reinforces an impression which is false and which that person does not believe to be true, including false impressions as to law, value, knowledge, opinion, intention or other state of mind. Provided, however, that an intention not to perform a promise, or knowledge that it will not be performed, shall not be inferred from the fact alone that the promise was not performed; or
       (b) Fails to correct a false impression which he previously had created or reinforced and which he did not believe to be true, or which he knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship; or
       (c) Prevents another from acquiring information which is pertinent to the disposition of the property involved; or
       (d) Fails to disclose a known lien, adverse claim or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of property which he transfers or encumbers in consideration for the property obtained, whether such impediment is or is not valid, or is or is not a matter of official record; or
       (e) Misrepresents to or misleads any person, in any manner, so as to make that person believe that the person on whose behalf a solicitation or sales promotion is being conducted is a charitable trust or that the proceeds of such solicitation or sales promotion shall be used for charitable purposes, if such is not the fact.
    III. Theft by deception does not occur, however, when there is only falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance, or puffing by statements unlikely to deceive ordinary persons in the group addressed. ""Puffing'' means an exaggerated commendation of wares in communications addressed to the public or to a class or group.
    IV. A person commits theft under this section notwithstanding that the victim has suffered no actual or net pecuniary loss.

Section 637:5

637:5 Theft by Extortion. -
    I. A person is guilty of theft as he obtains or exercises control over the property of another by extortion and with a purpose to deprive him thereof.
    II. As used in this section, extortion occurs when a person threatens to:
       (a) Cause physical harm in the future to the person threatened or to any other person or to property at any time; or
       (b) Subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or
       (c) Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or
       (d) Accuse any person of a crime or expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
       (e) Reveal any information sought to be concealed by the person threatened; or
       (f) Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another's legal claim or defense; or
       (g) Take action as an official against anyone or anything, or withhold official action, or cause such action or withholding; or
       (h) Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other similar collective action to obtain property which is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group which the actor purports to represent; or
       (i) Do any other act which would not in itself substantially benefit him but which would harm substantially any other person with respect to that person's health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.

Section 637:6

637:6 Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property. -

A person commits theft when:
    I. He obtains property of another which he knows to have been lost or mislaid, or to have been delivered under a mistake as to the identity of the recipient or as to the nature or amount of the property, without taking reasonable measures to return the same to the owner, and
    II. He has the purpose to deprive the owner of such property when he obtains the property or at any time prior to taking the measures designated in paragraph I.

Section 637:7

637:7 Receiving Stolen Property. -
    I. A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it has probably been stolen, with a purpose to deprive the owner thereof.
    II. The knowledge or belief required for paragraph I is presumed in the case of a dealer who:
       (a) Is found in possession or control of property stolen from 2 or more persons on separate occasions; or
       (b) Has received other stolen property within the year preceding the receiving charged; or
       (c) Being a dealer in property of the sort received, retained or disposed, acquires it for a consideration which he knows is far below its reasonable value, or
       (d) Purchases property from a law enforcement officer working in an undercover capacity, or an agent of such law enforcement officer, where such property has been explicitly represented as stolen.
    III. As used in this section, ""receives'' means acquiring possession, control or title or lending on the security of the property; and ""dealer'' means a person in the business of buying or selling goods.

Section 637:7-a

637:7-a Possession of Property Without Serial Number. -
    I. No person shall knowingly remove, deface, alter, change, destroy, obliterate or mutilate, or cause to be removed, defaced, altered, changed, destroyed, obliterated or mutilated the identifying number or numbers or any other identifying mark on any machine, mechanical or electrical device or any other property. Anyone doing so with the intent thereby to conceal the identity of the item or to defraud a manufacturer, seller or purchaser, or to hinder competition in the areas of sales and servicing, or to prevent the detection of a crime shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
    II. Any person who buys, receives, possesses, sells or disposes of any machine, mechanical or electrical device or any other property knowing that the identification number or numbers or any other identifying mark on the item have been removed, defaced, altered, changed, destroyed, obliterated or mutilated shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. However, if a person discovering that the identification number or numbers or any other identifying mark have been removed, defaced, altered, changed, destroyed, obliterated or mutilated shall report the same to the nearest police station, he shall not be charged with violating this section. Further, said provisions do not apply to those persons who, on August 13, 1977, are lawfully in possession of that type of property described in paragraph I which does not have identifying numbers or marks or from which the identifying marks or numbers have been lost inadvertently.
    III. The provisions of this section do not apply to those cases or instances where any of the changes or alterations enumerated in paragraph I have been customarily made or done in an established practice in the ordinary and regular conduct of business by the original manufacturer, or by his duly appointed direct representative, or under specific authorization from the original manufacturer.
    IV. When property described in paragraph I comes into the custody of a law enforcement officer, it shall be considered stolen or embezzled property, and prior to being disposed of, shall have an identifying number engraved on it or embedded in it.

Section 637:8

637:8 Theft of Services. -
    I. A person commits theft if he obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation by deception, threat, force, or any other means designed to avoid the due payment therefor. ""Deception'' has the same meaning as in RSA 637:4, II, and ""threat'' the same meaning as in RSA 637:5, II.
    II. A person commits theft if, having control over the disposition of services of another, to which he knows he is not entitled, he diverts such services to his own benefit or to the benefit of another who he knows is not entitled thereto.
    III. As used in this section, ""services'' includes, but is not necessarily limited to, labor, professional service, public utility and transportation services, restaurant, hotel, motel, tourist cabin, rooming house and like accommodations, the supplying of equipment, tools, vehicles, or trailers for temporary use, telephone or telegraph service, gas, electricity, water or steam, admission to entertainment, exhibitions, sporting events or other events for which a charge is made.
    IV. This section shall not apply to the attachment of private equipment to residential telephone lines unless the telephone company can prove that the attached equipment will cause direct harm to the telephone system. Attached equipment which is registered with the public utilities commission shall not require a protective interconnecting device. If the telephone company cites this section in its directories or other customer informational material, said company shall duplicate the entire section verbatim therein.

Section 637:9

637:9 Unauthorized Use of Propelled Vehicle or Rented Property. -
    I. A person is guilty of theft if:
       (a) Having custody of a propelled vehicle pursuant to an agreement between himself or another and the owner thereof whereby the actor or another is to perform for compensation a specific service for the owner involving the maintenance, repair or use of such vehicle, he intentionally uses or operates the same, without the consent of the owner, for his own purposes in a manner constituting a gross deviation from the agreed purpose; or
       (b) Having custody of a propelled vehicle pursuant to a rental or lease agreement with the owner thereof whereby such vehicle is to be returned to the owner at a specified time and place, he abandons the vehicle or willfully refuses or neglects to redeliver it to the owner in such manner as he may have agreed; or
       (c) Having custody of any property pursuant to a rental or lease agreement whereby such property is to be returned in a specified manner, intentionally fails to comply with the terms of the agreement concerning return so as to render such failure a gross deviation from the agreement.
    II. [Repealed.]
    III. As used in this section, ""propelled vehicle'' means any automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or any other motor-propelled vehicle or vessel, or any boat or vessel propelled by sail, oar or paddle.

Section 637:10

637:10 Theft by Misapplication of Property. -
    I. A person commits theft if he obtains property from anyone or personal services from an employee upon agreement, or subject to a known legal obligation, to make a specified payment or other disposition to a third person, whether from that property or its proceeds or from his own property to be reserved in an equivalent or agreed amount, if he purposely or recklessly fails to make the required payment or disposition and deals with the property obtained or withheld as his own.
    II. Liability under paragraph I is not affected by the fact that it may be impossible to identify particular property as belonging to the victim at the time of the failure to make the required payment or disposition.
    III. An officer or employee of the government or of a financial institution is presumed:
       (a) To know of any legal obligation relevant to his liability under this section, and
       (b) To have dealt with the property as his own if he fails to pay or account upon lawful demand, or if an audit reveals a shortage or falsification of his accounts.
    IV. As used in this section:
       (a) ""Financial institution'' means a bank, insurance company, credit union, safety deposit company, savings and loan association, investment trust, or other organization held out to the public as a place of deposit of funds or medium of savings or collective investment.
       (b) ""Government'' means the United States, any state or any county, municipality or other political unit within territory belonging to the United States, or any department, agency, or subdivision of any of the foregoing, or any corporation or other association carrying out the functions of government or formed pursuant to interstate compact or international treaty.

Section 637:10-a

637:10-a Use or Possession of Theft Detection Shielding Devices and Theft Detection Device Removers. -
    I. A person commits unlawful use of a theft detection shielding device when he or she engages in the following acts:
       (a) Knowingly manufactures, sells, offers for sale, or distributes a laminated or coated bag or device specially designed, marketed, and intended to be used to shield merchandise from detection by an electronic or magnetic theft alarm sensor.
       (b) Knowingly possesses any laminated or coated bag or device specially designed, marketed, and intended to be used to shield merchandise from detection by an electronic or magnetic theft alarm sensor, with the intent to commit a theft.
    II. A person commits unlawful possession of a theft detection device remover when he or she knowingly possesses any tool or device designed to allow the removal of any theft detection device from any merchandise, with the intent to use such tool to remove the detection device from the merchandise without the permission of the merchant or person owning or holding said merchandise.
    III. Persons convicted of either the use or possession of theft detection shielding devices or theft detection device removers shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Section 637:11

637:11 Penalties. -
    I. Theft constitutes a class A felony if:
       (a) The value of the property or services exceeds $1,000, or
       (b) The property stolen is a firearm, or
       (c) The actor is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the theft, except that if the deadly weapon is a firearm, he shall be sentenced in accordance with RSA 651:2, II-g.
    II. Theft constitutes a class B felony if:
       (a) The value of the property or services is more than $500 but not more than $1000, or
       (b) The actor has been twice before convicted of theft of property or services, as a felony or class A misdemeanor, or
       (c) The theft constitutes a violation of RSA 637:5, II(a) or (b), or
       (d) The property or services stolen are from 3 separate business establishments within a 72-hour period.
    III. Theft constitutes a misdemeanor if the value of the property or services does not exceed $500.


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Please note, the theft law information on this page is provided as a courtesy to help explain theft, shoplifting and stealing laws. There is no guarantee or assurance of reliability or validity. Laws change over time and this page may or may not be current. The code that is provided on this site is an unofficial posting of the State Codes. The files making up this Internet version of the State Codes do not constitute the official text of the State Codes and are intended for informational purposes only. No representation is made as to the accuracy or completeness of these sections. While every effort was made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the statutes available Offender Solutions™ shall not be liable or held responsible for any errors or omissions which may occur in these files, they are provided on an "As Is" basis. Use of the information and services are at the sole risk of the user. For official versions of any state's current laws, the user is directed to that states Revised Statutes, all amendments and cumulative supplements thereto published by that state. Please notify the Webmaster if you find any irregularities in the statutes on this web site. The Webmaster will relay the information to appropriate staff to investigate the irregularities. The printed version of the State Codes should be consulted for all matters requiring reliance on the statutory text. If you were involved in a theft or shoplifting incident you are encouraged to consider taking a theft cloass, theft course or shoplifting education class such as the one provided by offender solutions. Research shows theft school and/or theft education can be an effective theft prevention. Offender Solutions™ is an online theft education, shoplifting education class about stealing, it can be very effective if you want to stop stealing. Evan it was a small theft, a petty theft class or petty theft school could be right for you!


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Shoplifting is not a crime, it is a euphemism for the word stealing or theft, and theft is a crime. I'm not sure why our culture allowed the word "theft" to be different for someone who steals from a store, but the effect has been to minimize its seriousness in the mind of the shoplifter, our society and, interestingly, the police. It would seem logical for someone who is shoplifting to minimize the seriousness of this crime by calling it "shoplifting", but for the police to be swayed to this way of thinking is no less sacrilegious than for an American citizen to allow the euphemism, "casualty of war" to replace the word "death", minimizing the sacrifices of our Veterans.

The same point can be made of the term "petty theft". Doesn't the word "petty" conjure up notions of insignificance, unimportance and irrelevance? It almost appears the police and our society have fallen victim to a very successful propaganda campaign intending to minimize the seriousness of theft from a store by calling it "shoplifting". Actually, if you take time to think about it, whether the item is stolen from a store, your employer, or, has great or small value, it is still stealing. It is also a statement about the shoplifters character.

I don't work for a store or retailer and I do not spend my time trying to show retailers how to better protect themselves from shoplifting with cameras, mirrors, electronic tags, security personnel, etc. I spend my time helping theft offenders think through their actions, attitudes, values and beliefs. Working with most people who steal is not all that difficult. What I have discovered through theft offender counseling is that most theft offenders have relatively transparent thinking errors. For example, if you believed 2 + 3 equals 6 you would have a thinking error. Your thinking error would not readily be identified, (How often do you do math out loud or in front of someone, and, to take it even further, how many people are willing to confront you with your math error?). However, once this thinking error is identified, you would be quick to self correct.

There is also such a thing as a "cultural thinking error." One common cultural thinking error occurs when we minimize the impact of shoplifting by buying into the notion that if someone is "shoplifting", he must be a victim. Common cultural thinking errors are that theft offenders are victims of poverty, poor parenting, hunger, alcohol and drugs, ADHD, peer pressure, etc. The fact is, most people who steal from stores are none of the above and, all people who choose to steal from stores have options to stealing. Oh, kleptomania you say?

People who are shoplifting are not all that different from you and I. Simply stated, the primary differences include, 1) an overdose of selfishness, 2) a stronger than normal attraction to the forbidden, 3) thinking errors you and I don't have, and, most of all, 4) they don't self punish the thought of stealing.