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Consequences for Petty Theft in California

Consequences for Petty Theft in California

What Is Petty Theft?

Someone who commits a petty theft crime unlawfully steals property of a relatively low value. Circumstances surrounding petty theft, including specific value parameters and sentencing, vary by state.

What Is Considered Petty Theft in California?

The State of California charges all theft crimes, including petty theft, under Penal Code Section 484 PC, which states that:

“Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.”

Examples of petty theft in California include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Larceny
  • Embezzlement
  • Theft by false pretense
  • Theft by trick

California $950 Theft Law

In California, petty theft crime differs from grand theft crime. The latter is more serious and comes with harsher penalties because it involves the theft of property of a higher value.

Specifically, in California, grand theft is charged when property worth a value of more than $950 is stolen. Therefore, if property worth less than $950 is stolen, the charge is usually petty theft.

Is Petty Theft a Misdemeanor?

First-offense petty theft in California is classified as a misdemeanor. First offense grand theft is considered a felony. However, if the defendant has previous theft charges, any subsequent petty theft may be charged as a felony.

Sentencing for Petty Theft

The petty theft sentence California law mandates depends largely on the number of offenses previously committed.

First Time Petty Theft Charge California

  • $1,000 fine
  • Restitution for the amount/worth stolen
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Possible probation

*When the worth of the property stolen is less than $50, only an infraction may be charged.

Repeat Offenses for Petty Theft California

Repeat petty theft charges can come with more serious consequences. For instance, with second offense petty theft California allows a felony to be charged. This would be an example of a “wobbler offense”: an offense or crime that may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Every subsequent petty theft charge you receive comes with a higher likelihood of being charged with a felony. This is important to be aware of because compared to misdemeanor consequences, the consequences for felonies are much harsher.

If convicted of a felony, you may be required to serve up to three years in county jail. Plus, you will have to pay heavy fines and restitution and abide by other restrictions on your freedoms.

Defenses Against Petty Theft Charges

There are several common defenses that can be used to defend those accused of petty theft:

  1. You did not intend to steal.
  2. You honestly thought the property was yours.
  3. You were falsely accused of theft.
  4. You received permission from the property owner to take the property.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in California

Have you been charged with petty theft in California?

If this is your first offense, the charge can come with up to six months in jail plus large fines and other restrictions. Repeat charges may include even more jail time and more severe consequences.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in California can help you avoid conviction for wrongful charges or reduce your charges and sentence altogether.

Under the law, you have the right to a strong criminal defense. Contact our firm today to learn more about your legal options.