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What Are the Pentalties For Petty Theft in California?

Posted in Criminal Defense,Sentencing on February 29, 2020

There are several laws in California that relate to theft, the intentional and unlawful taking of another person’s property. In order for a theft to occur, there must have been the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property of the items taken.

Penal Code 484 and Penal Code 488

It is a crime for a person to unlawfully take another person’s property and then possess it as their own. This is called petty theft and is defined under Penal Code 484 in California.

Penal codes 484 and 488 describe a crime as petty theft if:

  1. The value of the property taken was $950 or less.
  2. The property was not taken directly off of another person (as opposed to robbery or mugging).
  3. The item taken was not an automobile or a gun.

Examples of Petty Theft

Petty theft is one of the most common theft charges applied in the state. There are several examples of what this crime may look like, including the following:

  • Jackson “borrows” a $400 ladder from a neighbor and purposely does not return it.
  • Mike changes the price tag on a jacket from $100 to $20 so he pays less for it.
  • Renaldo takes a $500 smartphone from a shipment he is making for his company.

Notice, that none of these examples involves values more than $950. For any theft over the $950 threshold, petty theft charges will not be applicable.

Penalties for Petty Theft

In California, petty theft is a misdemeanor offense (as opposed to a lesser infraction or a more serious felony). Petty theft is punishable by:

There are other potential consequences to a petty theft charge. A conviction could have negative immigration consequences for non-citizens. A petty theft misdemeanor could also show up on a person’s criminal background check and affect employment prospects.

Defenses for Petty Theft

If a person is charged with petty theft, it is important to secure an attorney who can work to challenge the accusation and create legal defenses. There are various ways in which an attorney may be able to defend you against petty theft charges. This can include asserting that you:

  • Acted with the owner’s consent. For petty theft charges to stick, it needs to be proven the property was taken without the owner’s consent. If the defendant acted with the owner’s consent, they cannot be guilty of petty theft.
  • Borrowed the property. A person can only be convicted of petty theft if they acted with the intent to deprive the owner of the property permanently. Your defense attorney could work to show that you were simply borrowing a person’s property with the intention of returning it after temporarily using it.
  • Claimed the right to the property. This defense would assert that the defendant believed that they had a right to the property that they took, even if this belief was unreasonable or mistaken.

Contact Graham Donath for a free case evaluation

If you or somebody you love has been charged with petty theft, seek legal assistance as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, our Riverside theft defense attorneys are going to thoroughly investigate your case and work to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether. You deserve to be treated fairly throughout this process, so contact us for a consultation on your case by clicking here or by calling as soon as possible.