Theft crimes in California generally defined as the intentional taking of a person’s
property without any direct permission, or without the intention of ever
returning it. Virtually any of notable value can be stolen under these
definitions, including services. For example, hiring a gardener to trim
a tree but never surrendering payment for services rendered is a form of theft.
Three of the most common theft crimes in California are:
Petty theft: The crime of petty theft – often recorded as or called shoplifting
by authorities – involves the theft of an item of services of relatively
low value, as the name suggests. Usually, $950 is the limit on petty theft
charges. If the property is valued at $950.01, then the charge might be
grand theft instead. Penalties for petty theft can include a fine up to
$1,000 plus the cost of the stolen item, restitutions for wrongdoing,
and a 6-month prison term. For petty theft of property valued below $50,
the prosecutor can choose to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or an infraction,
which would result in just a fine of $250 or less.
Grand theft: As the name suggests, grand theft is the thievery of an item with a significant
dollar value or benefit to the owner. Money, labor, or property stolen
with a value of $950 or greater will automatically constitute grand theft
in California. This limit is dropped to just $250 if the stolen property
are farm products, such as domestic fowl or crops. Grand theft penalties
will be much more severe than petty theft, such as thousands of dollars
in fines or years of imprisonment. Stolen property valued between $400.01
and $899.99 can be charged as petty or grand theft, depending on the prosecutor’s
Embezzlement: The fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been
entrusted is known as the theft crime of embezzlement. This criminal act
is sometimes labeled as a “white collar crime” since it often
occurs when a business professional steals money from a company that employs
them, or one that they own. Another example of embezzlement is a cashier
taking money from the cash register; he or she is entrusted to watch over
that money, so the crime is technically embezzlement, but it could be
charged as petty theft. Every person found guilty of embezzlement and
convicted can be penalized based on the amount of money or property embezzled.
It is also worth noting that United States citizens convicted of any crime,
including petty theft, will not be allowed to travel to Canada. Inversely,
non-U.S. citizens convicted of a form of theft, which is considered a
“crime of moral turpitude,” may be deported or removed from
the country as part of the conviction sentencing.
Defenses Against Theft Charges in California
In order to prove theft and secure a conviction under California law, the
prosecutor working the case has to establish that the intent of the defendant.
If there is not enough evidence to suggest that the defendant intended
to permanently deprive the owner of the property in question, then the
entire case against that defendant might come undone. Simply taking something
without permission is not necessarily theft.
Imagine the scenario in which two friendly neighbors, Jan and Casey, routinely
borrow one another’s lawn tools. While Jan is out of town, Casey
borrows Jan’s lawnmower without explicit permission to do so. Casey
forgets to return it due to a busy schedule. Jan returns home, sees the
lawnmower is missing, and later discovers it in Casey’s backyard.
If Jan tried to press charges, then Casey could likely use the defense
of never having the intention of keeping the lawnmower forever.
Another common defense to various theft charges is mistaken identity. It
is feasible that any eyewitness statement could be entirely incorrect,
or any footage of the event could be too unreliable to accept as admissible evidence.
Uphold Your Presumption of Innocence
As always, a defendant in California is innocent until proven otherwise
beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law. The prosecution has to
overcome this challenge to secure a conviction. But it is best not to
leave things up to chance.
If you have been accused of theft in California, call toll free
888.865.0741 to connect with the Law Office of Ivan O.B. Morse. Our Dublin theft crimes
Mr. Ivan Morse, can put decades of
criminal defense experience and years as an Oakland police officer to good use for your
case, fighting for your rights with insight that few other criminal attorneys
Schedule your free consultation with our firm today to begin working on your defense.