Protecting Your Rights Through Strong Advocacy And Effective Strategies For Success

Understanding two common theft charges in California

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Even without an element of violence at issue, a theft conviction can impact your life in various ways. The penalties can be severe, and a conviction may continue impacting your life long after you pay your debt to society.

Like many states, California has various theft classifications, including petty and grand theft. Any charges you may face will depend on the circumstances of the incident at issue.

Petty theft

The most common charge levied in the state is petty theft, defined as stealing property valued at $950 or less. Often charged as a misdemeanor, if convicted of this offense, you could receive a jail sentence approaching six months, regardless. If the property is worth $50 or less, the prosecutor in your case may opt to charge the offense as an infraction. Shoplifting is an example of petty theft, but only when it involves property worth less than $950 – a higher value means more severe charges.

Grand theft

Much more severe than petty theft, grand theft involves stolen property that exceeds $950 in value. It can also apply to stealing vehicles or firearms regardless of value. The potential penalties are steeper, ranging from a year in jail (for a misdemeanor) to up to three years of incarceration in a state prison (for felony convictions). In California, grand theft is considered a “wobbler,” meaning that a prosecutor often has the discretion to file it as a misdemeanor or felony.

Defense options

Contrary to popular belief, a successful defense against theft is possible. Examples can include challenging the prosecution’s evidence of intent, mistaken identity or a good faith belief of rightful ownership.

Seek legal guidance to discuss these and other possibilities if you’ve been arrested for theft in the Golden State. There’s too much at stake to attempt a DIY approach to your defense.