Although the California Penal Code lists many different types of theft offenses, a San Diego theft lawyer can explain that all theft offenses involve the intentional and unlawful taking of the property of another person. For a theft to have occurred, the person who took the property must have had the intention to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the property. The specific theft crime an accused is charged with will depend on the type of property taken, the value of the property and the manner in which the property was taken.
California law defines a theft of property with a reasonable fair market value of $950 or less as a petty theft. Most people arrested for petty theft as a result of shoplifting, for example, are charged with a misdemeanor. According to a San Diego theft lawyer, the penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail, up to $1000 in fines and three years of probation.
In some cases, where the value of the property taken is less than $50 and the accused has no prior criminal record, the case may be charged as an infraction with a maximum fine of $250 and no jail time. There is also a possibility that a San Diego theft lawyer may convince the court to offer a pre-trial diversion program to the accused, which, if completed, could allow the person to avoid prosecution.
Alternately, under certain circumstances, such as if the accused has three or more prior petty theft convictions, a petty theft can be charged as a felony.
If the value of the property taken exceeds $950, the offense is considered grand theft. In addition, if certain property is taken from another, grand theft will be charged no matter what the value. A San Diego theft lawyer indicates automobiles, firearms and livestock are included. Grand theft is what is known as a “wobbler,” in that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor of as a felony. A felony conviction may result in prison time of 16 months, two years or three years.
The prosecution is more likely to charge the theft as a felony if the accused has a prior theft or related offense or has some other serious or violent felony conviction. Under other circumstances, a theft crime may be considered a strike under California’s Three Strikes Laws.
Specific Theft Offenses
• Embezzlement, which is typically considered a white collar crime, occurs when someone takes another’s property that they have been entrusted with.
• Robbery involves force or violence of threat in the taking of the property
• Burglary involves the breaking and entering of a structure with the intent to commit a felony, which is often theft.
Contact a San Diego Theft Attorney for Legal Advice
Theft charges can expose you to serious penalties and long term consequences, even if the charge is petty theft. Experienced legal representation can make the difference. Call James V. Hairgrove, a San Diego theft attorney, at 619-667-3743.