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California Petty Theft Lawyer — Penal Code 484(a) PC & 488 PC

Should You Get A Petty Theft Attorney?

Theft occurs when one person steals another person’s property. The theft of relatively inexpensive items is known as petty theft. The theft of more expensive items is grand theft. Suppose you have been cited or charged with petty theft under California Penal Code 484(a) PC and 488 PC. In that case,  it is crucial that you have a top-rated California theft attorney to work on your behalf as soon as possible. In many cases, hiring a criminal defense lawyer immediately after being arrested could allow you to be placed in the best possible position given your circumstances. You don’t want to sit in county jail for theft offenses in California. Contact My Rights Law today by calling (888) 702-8882 or completing our secure web form to speak with a California theft defense lawyer about your case.

California Petty Theft Charges

One of the more common offenses prosecuted in California courts is shoplifting or petty theft. Most major shopping chains are aware of the financial damage shoplifters can impose. Many stores have in-store monitoring and private security forces. California petty theft can be charged when the goods stolen were worth $950 or less.[1] Theft of property valued over $950 can be charged as Grand Theft under California law. In many cases, petty theft from department stores is one of the most common theft crimes prosecuted in the California area.

Petty theft is a misdemeanor punishable by three years’ probation, up to six months in jail, and a maximum fine of $1,000. Grand theft can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor at the prosecutor’s discretion. When making this decision, prosecutors will often consider various elements, such as the value of the goods and your prior criminal record. According to California law, if you have a prior conviction for petty theft, you may be charged with petty theft with a prior. This charge carries more rigid penalties – up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor charge and potentially 16 months in prison if filed as a felony.

People with immigration issues should note that petty theft is regarded as a “crime of moral turpitude” and could lead to deportation or denial of naturalization or citizenship.

How Is California Petty Theft Different Than Grand Theft?

Petty theft involves property worth $950 or less. Grand theft involves property worth more than $950. As expected, petty theft is considered a less severe crime, so the punishment is less intense.

If someone steals certain animals or produce, it is considered grand theft if the value is greater than $250. In the case of most livestock (including horses, goats, cows, sheep, and pigs), it will be considered grand theft regardless of the value of the animal.

If the property stolen is a vehicle or a gun, it will be considered grand theft, regardless of the value of the vehicle or gun.

If the property is stolen directly from a person’s body, it will always be grand theft.

What Constitutes California Petty Theft?

The elements of petty theft in California are:

  • You took possession of something that belonged to someone else
  • You did not have the owner’s consent to take the property
  • You had the intent to “permanently deprive” the victim of their property
    • You don’t necessarily have to have intended to keep the property forever; it is enough that you intended to keep it long enough to deprive the owner of a significant portion of the property’s value.
  • You moved the property in some way and kept it for some period of time
  • To be petty theft (as opposed to grand theft), the property must be worth $950 or less

The following types of theft may be considered petty theft if the value of the property at issue is small enough:

  • Theft by embezzlement
  • Theft by false pretense
  • Theft by trick

The fair market value determines the value of the stolen property.

California Petty Theft Penalties

Petty theft is generally considered a misdemeanor in California. Petty theft penalties may include a $1,000 fine and 364 days in jail.

What Are Some Potential Defenses To CA Petty Theft?

You will not necessarily be convicted of the offense if you’ve been charged with petty theft or shoplifting. Some potential defenses to petty theft in California include:

  • Lack of intent – if you did not intend to steal (for example, if you forgot to pay for an item or accidentally ended up with an extra item in your bag), you did not commit theft.
  • Claim of right – if you truly believed you were the rightful owner of the property, you cannot have intended to steal the property, so you did not commit theft. Your belief does not have to have been reasonable.
  • Consent – if you were given consent to take the property (and you did not exceed the scope of that consent), you did not commit theft.
  • Misidentification –refers to a case where you are misidentified or falsely accused of theft. It is possible a theft did occur, but you were not the thief—perhaps you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or you resemble the actual thief.

My Rights Law California Petty Theft Lawyers

Charged with petty theft in California? You’ll want to hire a theft lawyer to defend you. If you are charged with a misdemeanor theft crime, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney because they can help you fight the charges.

As opposed to grand theft, typical petty theft offense punishments include small monetary fines and probation per the California Penal Code. Sometimes, a better option will be on the sentencing table like having to attend theft support groups in your area. If you want to avoid a fine and probation, among other consequences for unlawful taking, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at My Rights Law today to get a free consultation and see if this is an option for you.

Petty Theft Defense Lawyer At My Rights Law

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at My Rights Law are ready to provide legal help to anyone charged with a crime. Our criminal defense lawyers are prepared to battle for you. Please call (888) 702-8882 or complete our secure web form today to speak to our criminal law attorneys immediately.

FOOTNOTES
[1] California Penal Code 488 PC.

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