Facing theft accusations can attract life-altering consequences, including jail and prison sentences. Furthermore, your reputation is at risk, reducing your chances of smooth integration into your community after trial. Working with a dedicated legal team can reduce your chances of a guilty verdict for a theft crime.
With their help, you will better understand the nature of the offense you face, potential consequences, and applicable defenses. Your team also plays an instrumental support role throughout the trial proceedings, which reduces difficulties in understanding and fulfilling legal requirements on time.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have skilled and experienced attorneys in theft crimes. Our team understands the importance of finding workable defenses and evidence to support your case and will start working on it soon after you reach out. You can also expect reliable legal representation throughout your trial to help reinforce your defenses and convince the judge of your innocence.
The General Definition of Theft Crimes
The law classifies multiple unlawful actions under the theft crime category, depending on whether they meet the foundational elements of the crime. Section 484 of the California Penal Code defines theft as taking another person’s property without their knowledge or consent. Further, your actions will fall within the criminal category if you intend to deprive them of the property permanently.
Different theft crimes attract varying penalties, depending on the case circumstances. Some may also fall within the wobbler crime category, meaning that the prosecutor may charge you with a felony or misdemeanor offense. They will assess the case facts and highlight aggravating factors to escalate the charge to a felony.
On top of this, many theft crimes have similar elements, often differentiated by a single course of action. Hence, the prosecutor handling your case may charge you with an offense you did not anticipate, provided your alleged actions match the elements of the crime for your offense.
Once in police custody for the alleged theft crime, they should inform you of your charges as soon as possible to help you contact your attorney with the right information.
The following are the most commonly charged theft offenses in California:
Petty Theft, PC 484
Petty theft is a fairly common criminal accusation under Section 484 of the Penal Code. Its commonality stems from the widely applicable elements of crime and the prevalence of stealing compared to other offenses.
Elements of Petty Theft
Upon receiving a petty theft charge, you should understand the primary elements that the prosecutor must prove before the judge finds you guilty. They are:
You Unlawfully Took Another Person’s Property
Taking property refers to picking and moving the item in question, depending on what you allegedly stole. The prosecutor can prove this element even if you only moved the property slightly or for a short distance.
You Lacked Consent From the Property Owner
Additionally, the prosecution team must show that you moved the property without the owner’s consent. Highlighting this element is necessary because it demonstrates that you violated the owner’s property rights.
The Property in Question is Worth Less Than $950
Proving that the stolen property costs $950 or below is also important, as this element distinguishes petty theft from grand theft. Subsequently, the prosecution team may call on a certified valuation professional to establish this fact in court.
Penalties for Committing Petty Theft
If the judge or jury finds you guilty of petty theft, they may issue several penalties guided by the Penal Code provisions. The offense is a misdemeanor and may attract a jail sentence of up to six months or a $1000 maximum fine.
Additionally, the judge may order you to pay restitution to the aggrieved party, especially if recovering their property is impossible. Alternative sentencing involves a probation term where a probation officer will assess your behavior upon release and ensure you follow all mandated probation terms.
Grand Theft, PC 484 (a)
Alternatively, you may face grand theft charges under the provisions of section 484(a) of the Penal Code. Although the elements of the crime are similar to petty theft offenses, you should note that this charge applies where you have stolen property worth $950 or more. Subsequently, you are more likely to face serious repercussions for grand theft than petty theft.
The offense manifests through various actions, as each offender plans and executes differently. Hence, you want to learn about the different types of grand theft chargeable in a California court to help you build your defenses early.
Grand Theft By Trickery, PC 484
Stealing property by tricking an unsuspecting person is a criminal offense under section 484PC and entails the elements of the crime. Firstly, the prosecutor should prove that you obtained the property from the alleged victim. Hence, you must have picked up and moved the property from the owner’s possession.
Secondly, the prosecutor should prove that your actions involved tricks in influencing the aggrieved party into releasing the property. Common tricks include lying or committing fraud against the person in question. Thus, the prosecution team should produce sufficient evidence backing their claims of your actions to trick the property owner.
Additionally, they must show that the victim would not have released the property if they had not used deceit or fraud to obtain it. The element must show that no real consent was present when releasing the property.
Lastly, the prosecution team must show that you intend to stay with the property for an extended duration. Hence, you will have deprived the owner of using and benefiting from it.
Grand Theft By Larceny
Another frequently reported form of grand theft is larceny. The term refers to having physical access to the property and moving it away from the owner. You may achieve this under various circumstances, like if the property was unattended for some time.
During the trial, the prosecution team focuses on proving that you possessed the property. Possession means that you controlled the property or knew its location.
Moreover, the prosecutor must show that you did not have consent to handle the property, meaning that the owner reported it as missing. The evidence supports the prosecutor’s claims that you broke the law and inconvenienced the aggrieved party.
Lastly, your intention to permanently deprive the property owner of their property should appear during the prosecutor’s presentation. Therefore, they may rely on different evidential sources to build on the matter.
Grand Theft Through False Pretenses, PC 532
Furthermore, your arrest may have resulted from committing grand theft through pretenses. If so, your charges arise from section 532PC provisions, which define the crime as intentionally deceiving a property owner to obtain their property.
The crucial element of the crime to prove is that the aggrieved party relied on your pretenses to provide access to the property, so you had no consent to obtain it. Lastly, the prosecutor must show that you intended to permanently deprive the owner's property.
Penalties for Committing Grand Theft
Grand theft is a wobbler crime that may result in felony or misdemeanor penalties. You will face up to six months in jail as a misdemeanor or a $1000 maximum fine. A felony attracts a prison sentence that may last sixteen months, two or three years. Alternatively, the judge may sentence you to probation for a specified duration.
Grand Theft Auto, PC 487 (d)(1)
Committing grand theft auto also attracts theft crime charges as provided for in section 487(d)(1) of the Penal Code. The offense involves stealing a car, and the prosecutor must show that your actions satisfied all elements of the crime. These elements are:
You Took Possession of Another Person’s Car
Taking possession, in this case, means moving the vehicle from the owner and controlling it yourself or through a third party. As discussed, the prosecutor does not necessarily have to prove that you moved the vehicle far, only that you shifted it from its original position.
You Moved the Vehicle Without the Owner’s Consent
Additionally, proving that the owner did not authorize you to handle the vehicle is essential and gives the prosecutor’s case more credibility. Hence, they must show that the aggrieved party did not anticipate your approach or expressly allow you to take their vehicle.
You Intended to Deprive the Owner of Possession
Proving intention should point to the specific actions that demonstrated your thought process, so the prosecutor should source sufficient evidence. For example, the intent to permanently deprive the vehicle of the owner becomes apparent when you hide the car from plain sight. Doing so makes it difficult to trace, further reinforcing your unlawful intent.
Penalties for Committing Grand Theft Auto
Similarly, the offense is a wobbler crime, meaning you may face misdemeanor or felony punishment. Offenders under a misdemeanor charge can face up to one year in jail or pay a fine of up to $5000. Alternatively, felony offenders face prison for sixteen months, two, or three years.
Committing Robbery, PC 211
Any person arrested for robbery is subject to the legal provisions under section 211 of the Penal Code. It defines the offense as forcefully taking property from a person, implying that you will not have sought consent.
The elements of the crime that the prosecutor will focus on include:
You Took Identifiable Property from the Aggrieved Person
Taking possession from a person means removing it from their control by moving it away from them or their presence. For example, if you robbed someone of their phone from their pocket, you have removed possession from the person.
Alternatively, taking an item in the person’s immediate presence means that although they did not directly control it, it was within their watch. For example, taking items from a convenience store qualifies within that context.
You Took the Property Without Consent
Secondly, the prosecutor must show that you did not seek permission to take the property in question but continued with your actions despite the victim’s disapproval. The prosecutor may rely on surveillance footage or witness statements, among other evidentiary sources, to support their case.
You Used Force or Fear to Take Possession
A unique element of crime in robbery cases is that the accused must have applied force or fear tactics to influence consent from the owner. For example, using threats of violence to the victim or their immediate family translates to instilling fear.
Similarly, using force includes battery, assault using a weapon, or physical aggression like pushing and shoving to assert dominance. Evidence of the specific coercion you used will be available for the prosecutor’s reference as they pursue a guilty verdict against you.
Penalties for Committing Robbery
The Penal Code classifies robbery as a felony, so the outcomes are often serious. Typically, the judge can issue a sentence of up to nine years in prison. Nevertheless, they will modify it depending on aggravating or mitigating factors in your case.
Committing Burglary, PC 459
Burglary offenses often result in harsh punishments for any arrested person, mainly because they involve invading another’s space and committing theft. Under section 459 of the Penal Code, burglary offenses may attract misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the nature of your case. The following are important elements of the crime for the prosecutor to establish before the judge finds you guilty:
You Broke Into a Locked Car or a Building
Firstly, the prosecution team must prove that you entered an unauthorized location, specifically a building structure or a locked vehicle. This would signify the element of breaking in, which is critical in any burglary claim.
Mostly, evidential footage or audio will support the prosecutor’s case. Alternatively, they may call on witnesses or use forensic reports proving you were at the location where a burglary occurred. For example, if your fingerprints were on the locked vehicle in question, the information points to your potential involvement in the crime.
Please note that even if you did not break into the vehicle or building using force, the prosecution's case against you is still relevant. This is because you lack the authorization to be within the area, meaning that you have violated legal restrictions.
You Intended to Commit Petty or Grand Theft After Breaking In
A burglary accusation must also demonstrate your intention to commit theft after gaining access to the unauthorized location. Failure to do so would result in a different offense and charge like breaking.
Thus, the prosecution team should ensure they cover your criminal intention sufficiently or risk losing their case. They will study your actions before and during the crime to establish that you wanted to take property without consent. Furthermore, your intention should point to permanently depriving the owner of their property.
Penalties for a Burglary Offense
Once the judge finds you guilty of the crime, they may sentence you to a maximum of three years in jail if you broke into a commercial building. Alternatively, your sentence may extend to six years for breaking into a private residence.
Receiving Stolen Property
Receiving stolen property also amounts to a theft crime, as an accused person enables the distribution or withholding of property unlawfully. Subsequently, any arrest surrounding receiving stolen property is punishable under section 496 of the California Penal Code.
Although you may not have directly participated in stealing property, you risk facing criminal charges if your offense involved any of the following elements:
You Received Property
Firstly, the prosecutor must prove that you received property and handled it directly, making you a primary suspect in the offense. The reasoning behind this is that having physical possession of the items in question means you participated in permanently depriving the victim of their property.
Evidential sources for the prosecutor to rely on include any forensic reports like fingerprints on the stolen property. If the prints match yours, it becomes sufficient proof to demonstrate that you received the property.
Further, the prosecutor may present this claim even where you did not necessarily receive the property but sold, concealed, or bought it. Hence, each case presents different facts for the prosecutor’s reference.
You Knew the Party Who Handed You Property Had Stolen It
It is also important for the prosecutor to show that you were aware of handling stolen property. Thus, the prosecution team looks for any details presenting additional information on your interactions with other suspects before receiving the goods. Based on the records, the prosecutor will use the details to show you knew the nature of the goods.
You Intended to Remain With the Property Permanently
Lastly, receiving stolen property should encompass an unlawful intention to withhold it permanently. Thus, the victim in question would not likely receive their property unless police investigations track and retrieve it. Therefore, the prosecutor should prove that you intended to remain with the stolen property, showing that you violated the law.
Penalties for Receiving Stolen Property
Notably, receiving stolen property may attract misdemeanor or felony punishments depending on the value of stolen goods. When charged with a misdemeanor, you risk serving a jail sentence of up to one year. Conversely, a felony punishment may result in up to three years in state prison.
Generally Applicable Defenses for Theft Crimes
When the prosecutor concludes their case, you will have a chance to present your defenses and persuade the judge or jury to find you innocent. Usually, your defense hearing allows you to question the prosecutor’s case integrity and raise issues not previously considered.
Therefore, you want to take time and source compelling evidence to support your case in readiness for your defense hearing. Your criminal attorney will guide you through the various requirements to satisfy, giving you a better chance of presenting a solid case.
Notably, not all defenses will apply to your case, so you want to evaluate each argument compared to your case facts. Additionally, your defense should fit the case context to avoid raising irrelevant issues.
Some applicable defenses for theft crimes are:
You Did Not Take Property Away From the Owner
Firstly, you can counter the prosecutor’s accusation of taking another person’s property. To do this, you need to challenge the factual evidence that the prosecution team raises. For example, they may have presented evidence to show that the property in question moved from its original position.
In your defense, you may state that you were not responsible for moving the item and did not handle it physically. However, you want to back the information with sufficient proof to build credibility. This way, you cast reasonable doubt on the prosecutor’s case and reduce their chances of winning against you.
You Had Consent to Take the Property in Question
Alternatively, you can defend yourself by highlighting that the property owner was aware that you would take their property and that they consented to it. Presenting audio or video recordings that support your position is the best way to reinforce your argument. Alternatively, you can produce documentary evidence to show that you were both aware of the property transfer to your possession.
However, this evidence may not always be available, especially when you reach an informal agreement. Thus, you can call on a witness who can testify to the property owner agreeing to release their property to your possession. You want to ensure that their statements show that you received consent without imposing pressure or force on the aggrieved party.
You Did Not Intend to Deprive the Owner of Their Property Permanently
Since theft offenses involve the permanent deprivation of property, you can counter the prosecutor’s case by showing that you intended to return the item in question. To do this, you can present information about any plans you made to transport the property back to the owner after use. You can also present evidence of your efforts to inform the owner that you would return their property.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Dealing with theft crime charges can be challenging, especially if you are unfamiliar with the California criminal system. Moreover, meeting evidential demands can prove difficult without a lawyer helping you through the process. Subsequently, you may consider retaining a criminal defense attorney to help you with your case. Doing so significantly increases your chances of a successful case outcome.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we offer extensive support surrounding your case and any relevant findings to help challenge the prosecutor’s case. Overall, our criminal defense attorney team will do their best to represent you in court and push for a fair outcome. For more information on handling theft crime charges, call us today at 424-333-0943.