Theft

Theft crimes can range from shoplifting an item worth a couple of dollars, to embezzlement of millions of dollars. As the amount of theft can vary widely, so the penalties. Through Proposition 47, California has lowered many low level theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, but they are still treated as serious criminal offenses.

Common theft crimes in California include:

  • Petty Theft
  • Grand Theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Burglary
  • Automobile Theft
  • Robbery
  • Receiving Stolen Property

The penalties for a theft crime may depend on the value of stolen property, whether any force or firearms were used, and the defendant’s criminal background. A conviction for theft may still result in years in prison, and a felony criminal record.

Petty Theft

Under the California Penal Code 490, theft involves the taking of another person’s property. If the property taken is valued at less than $950, the crime is considered petty theft. Shoplifting is often considered petty theft, which is usually treated as a misdemeanor. However, subsequent violations could result in increased penalties.

Grand Theft

Under California Penal Code 487, grand theft involves theft of property valued at $950 or greater. Other theft is also included under the category of grand theft, including theft of firearms, conversion of real estate, and theft of copper. Grand theft can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement involves fraudulently taking property which has been entrusted to you. Under California Penal Code 503, the penalties are treated similarly to theft charges, with greater penalties for higher-value theft. As with other theft violations, a conviction may also subject the defendant to paying back the amounts stolen, including additional damages. .

Burglary

The crime of burglary usually involves entering a room or building, with the intent to commit a felony, such as a theft. Under California Penal Code 459, the penalties for burglary may depend on whether the building was a dwelling or commercial building, and whether any weapons or violence was used.

Automobile Theft

Under California Penal Code 487, theft of an automobile is considered a type of grand theft. It can be charged as a felony, with the possibility of multiple years in prison.

Robbery

Unlike many of the other theft crimes, robbery is treated as a crime against the person rather than a crime against property. This is because robbery involves theft by force. Under California Penal Code 211, robbery is a felony, with penalties up to 9 years in jail.

Receiving Stolen Property

Even if someone was not involved directly in a burglary, robbery, or theft, they can still be held liable for receiving stolen property if they buy, hide, sell, or receive the stolen property. Under California Penal Code 496, the penalties usually depend on the value of the stolen property involved.

Defenses to Theft Charges

Your California criminal defense lawyer will be able to advise you of the possible legal defenses in your case. These may include claims of mistaken identity, or that the property rightly belonged to you. Each case is different, and your defense lawyer will be able to identify the best defenses available for your case.

Theft Crime Defense Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been charged with shoplifting, auto theft, or burglary, you may think it is the easiest route to just take a plea deal. Remember, a criminal record can follow you the rest of your life. You don’t have to plead guilty just because you were arrested. An experienced attorney with a record of successfully defending their clients can help get criminal charges dismissed or reduced.

Petty Theft

Description

California Penal Code 490 defines petty theft as obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real, or personal property taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).

Cars, firearms, livestock, and any theft over $950 will be charged as grand theft.

To be convicted of petty theft the following must be true:

  1. The defendant stole the money, labor, or property of another;
  2. The defendant did so without the consent of the owner; and
  3. The value taken in the theft amounts to less than $950.

Penalties

Petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor and can result in incarceration for up to six months, fines not to exceed $1,000, informal probation, or a combination of incarceration, fines, and probation.

The severity of the charges will change depending on the type and value of the theft.

Examples

A woman pulls a tag off of a new pair of jeans at a department store and tries to walk out, but she was spotted on security cameras and asked to open her bag. She can be charged with petty theft.

Grand Theft

Description

California Penal Code 487 charges for grand theft auto for each of the following:

  1. Money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding $950.
  2. Domestic fowls or farm crops are taken of a value exceeding $250.
  3. Fish, crustaceans, kelp, or other aquaculture products are taken from a commercial or research operation which is producing that product, of a value exceeding $250.
  4. Property is taken from the person of another.
  5. The property taken is an automobile or firearm.

Grand theft includes theft charges by larceny, embezzlement, trick and false pretenses.

Larceny means taking the property of another with intent to steal.

Embezzlementis “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”

To be convicted of grand theft the following must be true:

  1. The defendant stole the money, labor, or property of another;
  2. The defendant did so without the consent of the owner; and
  3. The value taken in the theft amounts to more than $950, or is an automobile or firearm.

Penalties

The penalties for grand theft depend on what was stolen, how it was stolen, and what the value of the items taken. Grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A charge of misdemeanor can result in incarceration in county jail not to exceed one year.

A charge of a felony can result in incarceration in state prison not to exceed three years. This sentence can be enhanced based on the value of property taken.

Examples

After a divorce, a man goes back to his wife’s house to clean out the rest of his belongings. He takes several pieces of expensive electronic equipment, believing they were originally his property. His ex-wife reports him to the police for grand theft. The man probably would not be charged with grand theft if he believed the property was his, and had no intent to commit theft.

Embezzlement

Description

California Penal Code 503 defines embezzlement as the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.

To be convicted of embezzlement the following must be true:

1. The defendant was given and trusted with a good or service of value; and

2. The defendant stole the valuable with the intent to deprive the owner of the valuable.

Penalties

The penalties for embezzlement depend on the value of the stolen item(s). If it amounts to under $950, you can be charged with petty theft. If it amounts to more, you can be charged with grand theft.

If charged for a misdemeanor embezzlement you can be charged with imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, or a fine not to exceed $1,000. It is possible you will be charged with both imprisonment and a fine.

If charged for a felony embezzlement can result in imprisonment in state prison up to three years, or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.

The penalties will increase if you are a public employee who embezzled from a government employer, if you used a weapon, or if you have a previous criminal history.

Diversion programs are available for some embezzlement charges.

Examples

A woman who frequently travels for her job on her company credit card begins using it to buy lottery tickets and other personal items. In six months she spends over $3,000 of company money on goods not related to her job. She can be charged with embezzlement, and because the worth is over $950, can be charged with grand theft.

Burglary

Description

California Penal Code 459 splits burglary into two degrees:

First degree burglary is entering a residential dwelling with the intent to steal or commit larceny.

Second degree burglary is entering a non-residential setting, like a commercial building, with the intent to steal or commit larceny.

To be convicted of burglary the following must be true:

1. The defendant entered a residential dwelling or other setting (like a commercial building); and

2. The defendant entered with the intent to commit theft.

Penalties

The penalties for burglary depend on what degree of burglary was committed.

A charge of first degree burglary can result in imprisonment in state prison up to six years, a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both incarceration and a fine.

A charge of second degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A charge of a misdemeanor can result in imprisonment in county jail up to one year, and/or fines not to exceed $1,000. A charge of a felony can result in imprisonment in state prison for up to three years, and/or fines not to exceed $10,000.

Examples

A man finds a house that looks empty. He walks to the back of the home, and sees a jewelry box in a bedroom. He breaks the back window and enters in order to commit theft. He steals valuable jewelry and electronics. He can be charged with first degree burglary.

Auto Burglary

Description

California Penal Code 487 defines grand auto theft as taking an automobile from its owner with the intent to steal and deprive the owner of the automobile.

Auto theft can also be charged as carjacking and theft or unlawful taking or joyriding.

Carjacking is defined as taking an automobile or vehicle from an owner when he or she is in your immediate presence.

Theft, unlawful taking, or joyriding is defined as taking an automobile from its owner with the intent to take it only temporarily, or to return it.

To be convicted of grand auto theft the following must be true:

1. The defendant took an automobile from its owner without his or her permission; and

2. The defendant took the automobile with the intent to steal and deprive the owner of the automobile.

It is important to note that the qualifications are different for carjacking and unlawful taking.

Penalties

The penalties for auto theft depend on what type of theft with which you were charged.

A charge of grand theft auto can result in a misdemeanor or a felony. A charge of misdemeanor can result in imprisonment in county jail for for up to one year, and/or fines. A charge of a felony can result in imprisonment in state prison up to three years, and/or fines not exceeding $10,000.

Examples

A man asks to borrow his neighbor’s car, but has no intention of bringing it back. He drives the car to a friends house across town. The next day the police find him and arrest him. He can be charged with grand auto theft.

A woman who works in valet parking decides to take a new Ferrari out for a drive before returning to park the car. The owner comes out early and discovers the car is gone. The woman probably cannot be charged with grand theft if she intended to return it, but can be charged with unlawful taking or joyriding.

Robbery

Description

California Penal Code 211defines robbery as the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.

Robbery is charged in two degrees. The first includes robbery done on public or hired transportation, in an inhabited dwelling, or at a bank teller machine.

The second includes all other types of robbery.

Unlike burglary, robbery involves contact with another person.

To be convicted of robbery the following must be true:

1. The defendant stole or took the property of another person;

2. The defendant took this property against the will of the owner; and

3. The defendant used force or fear to obtain the property.

Penalties

The penalties for robbery depend on the degree of the crime.

A charge of first-degree robbery can result in imprisonment in state prison for up to nine years. A charge of second-degree robbery can result in imprisonment in state prison for up to five years.

The charge can increase with repeat offences or with a past criminal history.

Examples

A man waits for a woman to take her cash out of the ATM, and then as soon as she has her cash he robs her at gunpoint. The man can be charged with first-degree robbery.

A woman walks into a gas station store with a knife and demands that the cashier empty the cash registers into a bag for her. The woman can be charged with second-degree robbery.

Receiving Stolen Property

Description

California Penal Code 496 defines receiving stolen property as knowingly buying or receiving stolen property, or buying or receiving it without due diligence.

The code specifically references dealers of secondhand items or junk and swap meet vendors. These individuals can be charged differently.

To be convicted of receiving stolen property the following must be true:

1. The defendant received, bought, sold, or withheld stolen goods or property; and

2. The defendant understood that the goods or property were stolen.

Penalties

Penalties for receiving stolen property can result in a charge of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the goods or property.

A charge of a misdemeanor can result in imprisonment for up to one year and fines. A charge of a felony can result in imprisonment for up to three years. A felony charge can also result in compensation payments to the victim up to three times the amount of the damages.

Examples

A woman who works as a dealer at a secondhand jewelry store makes an agreement with a man that she will buy his stolen necklaces and rings at a good price. The woman can be charged with receiving stolen property.

A woman knows her boyfriend is part of a ring of people who sell stolen iPhones. For her birthday, he gifts her one of those iPhones. If the woman doesn’t use due diligence to not accept the stolen iPhone, she can be charged with receiving stolen property.