What is the Law for Petty Theft in California?

The California Penal Code (CPC) §484(a) defines theft as taking property owned by someone else without their consent. You also must have the intent at that time to permanently deprive the owner of a significant portion of the property’s value or enjoyment by permanently taking it away from them.

The third element is that you must take away the property and keep it for some time, no matter how short. Petty theft crimes involve property or services worth $950 and below. You risk being sentenced to six months in jail, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both upon a conviction. Hire a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney for guidance if you’re facing petty theft charges.

What Are the Elements of Petty Theft in California?

For a prosecutor to have you convicted of a petty theft offense, they must prove the following factors beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You gained possession of property owned by someone else through theft or fraud
  • The property was worth not more than $950
  • You took the property without the owner’s permission
  • You intended to permanently deprive the owner of possession of the property at the time you took it or
  • You intended to deprive them of a significant portion of the property’s value or enjoyment and
  • You moved the property any distance from the owner and
  • Kept the property for any amount of time

Proving intent is often complex. An aggressive Los Angeles theft crime lawyer can cast doubt on the prosecutor’s evidence to show you had no intention to steal. They can also help you create a solid defense strategy to have the charges dropped or penalties reduced.

What is The Difference Between Petty Theft, Grand Theft, Robbery, and Burglary?

In California, grand theft is when you unlawfully take property belonging to someone else and worth more than $950. Prosecutors can charge grand theft offenses as misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor grand theft charge attracts a sentence of up to one year in county jail upon conviction. A felony is punished by a jail sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years.

Robbery is stealing from someone without their permission using force or fear. The crime is a felony, and the penalties depend on the level of the crime. A burglary entails breaking into a residential or commercial building to steal. Even if you don’t steal, the act of breaking in is a crime in itself.

What Are the Classes of Petty Theft in California?

Petty theft is classified into different categories based on how the crime is committed. The law recognizes the following types of petty theft:

Theft by False Pretense

The crime is when you use pretense to convince the property owner to hand over the property or turn over its possession to you. For example, you could walk into a shop and claim to be someone you’re not to pick a package you didn’t purchase.

Theft by Larceny

Most petty theft crimes happen by larceny. It involves taking off with someone’s property, in most cases, personal in nature. An example is someone waking up after a party only to realize his wallet was stolen. Other types of property usually stolen through larceny are:

  • Clothing
  • Appliances
  • Electronic equipment
  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Sporting gear and equipment
  • Bicycles

Theft by Trick

The offense entails obtaining someone’s property through fraud or deceit. When getting the property, you intended to deprive the victim of it for a long time so that they would miss a significant part of its value.

The differentiating factor between theft by false pretense and theft by trick is that in the first case, the property owner turns over both possession and ownership of the property to you. In theft by trick, the owner merely gives you possession, not property ownership.

Theft by Embezzlement

It happens when you steal property from someone after they entrusted you with it. However, you fraudulently converted the property for your benefit, intending to deprive the owner of its use, even if only temporarily.

Whatever type of petty theft charges you’re facing, let a skilled Los Angeles theft crime attorney represent you for a favorable outcome.

What Are the Possible Defenses to Petty Theft Charges?

An experienced theft crime lawyer who understands the ins and outs of criminal law in Los Angeles can help you explore the most suitable defense strategy based on the case specifics:

  • No intention to steal
  • The owner had given you consent to take the property
  • You believed the property belonged to you
  • Falsely accusation leveled against you
  • Mistaken identity
  • You had only borrowed the property and intended to return it within a reasonable time after taking it.

You don’t have to go to jail for a mistake you committed in the past, as that could put your reputation on the line. Hire an aggressive criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles to help you beat the charges.

A Skilled Theft Crime Attorney Providing Solid Defense Against Petty Theft Charges

Being convicted of petty theft may have you sentenced to county jail for six months. Incarceration puts you away from your family, work, and the things you love. You may also have to pay hefty fines that could dent your finances. Given that so much is at stake, you need to create a strong defense with the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles.

The Miranda Rights Law Firm hosts a knowledgeable theft crime lawyer who can come to your defense. We can provide sound legal advice and strategic defense strategies to minimize the chances of a conviction and the hefty penalties. Call us at 213-293-1207 to schedule a FREE consultation.