Theft is a common criminal charge in California. It is critical for anyone accused of a theft crime to have a basic understanding of theft law, including how a prosecutor attempts to prove theft, punishments for theft, and defenses to theft allegations.
Petty Theft (Penal Code 484) and Grand Theft (Penal Code 487) are the two most commonly charged theft offenses. The only difference between petty theft and grand theft is the value of the allegedly stolen property – if the allegedly stolen property has a value of $400 or more grand theft may be charged.
How does a prosecutor prove theft? Whether charged with petty theft or grand theft, a prosecutor must prove the following facts: (1) the defendant took possession of property owned by another person; (2) that person did not consent to defendant taking the property (3) when defendant took the property he had the intent to take it permanently or for a significant amount of time; and (4) defendant moved the property and kept it – “movement” occurs even if the defendant moved the property only a small distance and kept it for only a short period of time.
What are the punishments for petty theft? Petty theft is a misdemeanor, typically punished by up to 3 years of informal probation, a maximum sentence of 6 months in county jail, a $1000 fine, or both. In some instances, such as when the value of the stolen property is small and the defendant has no criminal history, petty theft may be charged as an infraction and dismissed if the defendant completes theft education classes.
What are the punishments for grand theft? Grand theft is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony if the property has a high value. Misdemeanor grand theft carries a basic punishment of 3 years of informal probation, up to six months in jail, a $1000 fine, or both. Felony grand theft can be punished by16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison.
Defenses to theft charges! Theft charges are often based on weak evidence that must be vigorous challenged. Depending on the facts of a case, defenses to theft charges may include: (1) lack of intent – when the defendant took the property he did not intend to permanently keep it, (2) right of possession – theft is not committed if the allegedly stolen goods belong to the defendant and the defendant has a right to possess them, (3) consent – defendant had consent to take the allegedly stolen property, and (4) false theft allegations.
If you have been charged with a theft crime in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Beverly Hills or other parts of California I hope this article has been helpful.
Garret Weinrieb, Esq.
Valerio | Weinrieb Criminal Defense Attorneys
(note: Information contained within this article is intended for general information purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information contained within this article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and use of this article, and any information contained herein, does not constitute such a relationship.)