Theft

PETTY THEFT – (CA Penal Code 484)

Petty theft, CA Penal Code 484 PC, is defined by the state as anyone who steals or takes somebody else’s property (up to $950

It’s important to note that firearms, livestock, and vehicles do not fall under CA Penal Code 484 but are treated as grand theft, CA Penal Code 487. Any property taken directly from a person (i.e. robbing) is also treated as grant theft.

A fundamental element of petty theft is that a defendant deprives the property’s owner of potential enjoyment or value. This is important because it eliminates the loophole of returning stolen property and not being punished. In other words, if somebody steals a CD from a store, they are not only stealing the store’s property but also a means for them to make money.

POSSIBLE SENTENCE (PC 484)

Petty theft in California is a misdemeanor. If a defendant is found guilty and convicted of petty theft they could face:

Up to six (6) months in county jail

Up to $1,000 in fines

Informal probation

Often times, if petty theft is a defendant’s first theft related crime, they will usually serve little to no jail time. In addition, if it is a defendant’s first theft related crime and the stolen property is valued at $50 or less it is possible to have the crime reduced to an infraction. If the crime is reduced to an infraction a defendant could face:

Up to $250 in fines

Community service

Anti-theft classes

Compensation to the owner of the stolen property


GRAND THEFT (PC 487)

The laws pertaining to grand theft in California, CA Penal Code 487, are quite complex. The most common type of grand theft is grand theft by larceny, meaning you physically take another person’s property.

To be convicted of grand theft by Larceny a prosecutor must prove:

  • You took someone else’s possession
  • You did not have permission to take the property from the owner
  • You intended to take the property with the intent to deprive the owner of its value or enjoyment
  • You carried or moved the property away and kept it for a period of time
  • The value of the property taken must amount to $950.00 or greater.

NOTE:  If the value is less than $950.00 then the appropriate Criminal charge is Petty Theft.   If the property taken was a car or firearm, regardless of the value, you will be charged with PC 487 Grand Theft.

To be convicted of grand theft by false pretense a prosecutor must prove:

  • That you Knowingly and intentionally deceived somebody by misrepresenting a Fact
  • Carried out the false pretense with the sole intent to persuade that person to entrust the property to you
  • Because of your false pretense, the person let you take possession and custody of the property

To be convicted of grand theft by trick a prosecutor must prove:

  • You actually obtained someone else’s property
  • You obtained the property by way of fraud or deceit
  • Your intent for employing fraud/deceit was to deprive the owner of its value or enjoyment
  • You took control of the property for a period of time
  • The owner of the property did not intent to give it to you

To be convicted of grand theft by embezzlement a prosecutor must prove:

  • You were Entrusted with certain property by the owner of that property
  • The property owner relied on you to safeguard the property
  • By way of fraud or to benefit yourself you assumed control over the property
  • You intended to take the property with the intent to deprive the owner of its value or enjoyment

WOBBLER

May be Charged as Felony or Misdemeanor  

theft in California is a wobbler, meaning it can be tried as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the details of the case and your criminal record.

If the crime is tried as a misdemeanor then you face:

  • Up to one year in county jail

If the crime is tried as a felony, then you face:

  • Up to three years in state prison

NOTE:  If a gun was utilized during the commission of the offense then the crime is automatically charged as a felony.


CARJACKING (PC 215)

Carjacking is a serious felony in California and is dealt with quite heavy-handedly by the judicial system.

Definition of Carjacking:

Carjacking is when someone takes an individual’s vehicle from their immediate possession with the use of force or fear.

To be convicted of Carjacking the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • A victim was in immediate possession of a car
  • Defendant took that car from the driver, or passenger (Victim)
  • Defendant took the car against the victim’s will
  • Defendant used force or fear when taking the vehicle from the victim
  • Defendant did so with the specific intent to deprive the owner or passenger (Victim) permanently or temporarily

POSSIBLE SENTENCE:

  • Formal probation and up to one year in county jail, OR
  • Up to nine years in state prison, and
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Punishment applied for each victim in the vehicle you stole from.

ENHANCEMENTS

  • If great bodily injury was inflicted upon the victim, then Defendant will face an additional 3-to-6-year prison sentence in addition to the initial punishment.
  • If the prosecution can prove that Defendant is a member of a gang and carjacked the vehicle to benefit that gang then Defendant will face an automatic 15-years-to-life sentence in addition to the initial punishment.
  • If a gun was utilized during commission of the crime, then Defendant will face an additional 10-year prison sentence
  • if the gun was discharged during the commission of the crime, then Defendant will face an additional 20-years in prison
  • if a victim or bystander was killed or inflicted serious injury during the commission of the crime, then Defendant shall face 25-years-to-life in prison.

STRIKE APPLIED

Because of the violent nature of this crime, if a Defendant is convicted of carjacking then he/she shall receive an automatic “strike” on his/her record pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law.

Also, if you are undocumented and you are convicted of carjacking then it is possible that you will be deported.


BURGLARY  (PC 459)

Burglary in the state of California, Penal Code 459 PC, is different from theft and robbery.

PC 459 is when a person, upon entering a structure intends to commit a crime. Burglary is a wobbler, meaning it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on a defendant’s past and the details of the crime.

Burglary is commonly referred to as breaking and entering but the act of “breaking” into a structure is not necessary. A person can be charged with burglary even if they walked through open doors, the important factor however is when they walked through those open doors, did they have the intent to commit a felony?

Two Different Types of Burglary

There are two varying degrees of burglary. First degree residential burglary is always a felony and is commonly referred to as residential burglary. First degree residential burglary refers to burglary that takes place in an inhabited dwelling, for instance, a home, apartment, house boat, ultimately any place where people can live; reference PC 459 for a full list of inhabitable structures.

SENTENCING FIRST-DEGREE RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY:

Two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in state prison

Up to $10,000 in fines

Probation will not be offered

Second degree burglary is commonly referred to as commercial burglary because it’s a burglary that takes place in any structure other than an inhabitable dwelling. Second degree burglary is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a felony or as a misdemeanor.

SENTENCING- SECOND-DEGREE BURGLARY:

If charged with second degree burglary as a felony:

16-months, two (2), or three (3) years in a state prison

Up to $10,000 in fines

If charged with second degree burglary as a misdemeanor:

Up to one (1) year in a county jail

Up to $1,000 in fines

ENHANCEMENTS:

An additional three (3), five (5), or seven (7) year state prison sentence when explosives or torches are used for either first degree or second-degree burglary.

An additional three (3) to six (6) year state prison sentence if “great bodily injury” was inflicted on another.

An additional one (1) to two (2) year state prison sentence if first degree burglary was knowingly committed on an individual who:

  • Was over 65 years of age or under 14 years of age
  • Blind or deaf
  • Mentally disabled
  • Paraplegic or quadriplegic

Occupied Dwelling/Structure

If there was a person in the house when a defendant committed first degree burglary then the defendant will get an additional three (3) year state prison sentence for each California violent felony on his or her record.

NOTE:  If defendant has not committed a violent felony within ten (10) years this rule doesn’t apply.  If a defendant has committed any other felony within five (5) years of a felony burglary conviction, either first or second degree, then one (1) additional year will be added to his or her sentence.


RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY (PC 496)

The elements of receiving stolen property under California Penal Code 496(a) are:

  • Buying, receiving, concealing, selling or withholding property obtained through any enumerated theft crime or extortion;
  • Property known to be stolen (or the product of a theft crime or extortion);
  • Having possession of the stolen property;
  • Helping another person in buying, receiving, concealing, selling or withholding property obtained through enumerated theft crimes or extortion.

What if I did not know the property was “stolen”?

State must prove the “Reasonableness Standard.”

  • If the state can prove that a person in your same position at the time of receiving the property in question did in fact know (had actual knowledge), or should have known (had constructive knowledge) that the property was stolen, then the knowledge element has been met.

The “reasonableness” standard for “knowing the property to be stolen” under PC 496 of the Code depends on totality of your specific situation, ranging from:

  • your age,
  • education,
  • profession and
  • previous criminal record (if applicable).

DEFENSE:  A good faith belief that the goods were not in fact stolen might be sufficient to knock-out this required element.

What is restitution?

  • Restitution is paying the victim back for the value of the items or money that you stole from him or her.
  • Most theft punishments will require you to pay restitution to the victim.

What is probation or parole?

  • Probation or parole requires you to be supervised by a probation or parole officer for a certain period of time.
  • You may be subject to certain requirements of probation or parole, such as keeping appointments with your assigned officer, paying fees, completing work or community service requirements, undergoing drug and/or alcohol screenings, and anything else that your officer might require.
  • If you don’t comply with the requirements of your probation or parole, then you risk going back to jail or prison to serve the remainder of your sentence.

What is community service?

  • As part of your punishment, you can be ordered to perform a certain amount of community service, which is work that you perform for free that benefits a governmental or non-profit organization.
  • Community service is usually set up through the court system, and in California, can include the CalTrans program, which involves freeway clean-up.