Petty Theft & Grand Theft

California Theft Attorneys

In California, theft is defined as taking property from another owner with the intent to keep it.  There are two main types of theft crimes – petty theft and grand theft.   The most common type of theft is petty theft.  As defined by Penal Code section 488, petty theft usually involves the taking of property where the value of property is under $950.  Petty theft is always a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year county jail.  However, if a person is charged with petty theft and they have prior theft-related convictions on their record, the new petty theft offense can be charged as a felony pursuant to Penal Code section 666.  Petty theft of property valued under $50 can be charged as an infraction, pursuant to Penal Code section 490.1.

Grand theft, according to Penal Code section 487, involves the taking of property whose value is $950 or more.  Grand theft is a wobbler, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.  Usually, the District Attorney’s office will charge the crime as a felony if the property was well over $950 in value or if the person involved has a prior criminal record.  If charged as a felony, the maximum penalty for grand theft is three years state prison.  If charged as a misdemeanor, grand theft carries the same penalty as petty theft – one year in jail.

There are different ways to commit petty theft and grand theft.  Shoplifting involves taking items from a store.  Depending on the value of items taken, shoplifting can be charged as either petty theft or grand theft.  Embezzlement involves secretly stealing money from an employer.  Since embezzlement usually occurs over a period of time, the total amount of money taken is what determines whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony.  Since most embezzlement involves more than $950, embezzlement is almost always charged as grand theft.  Theft of a firearm or automobile is always considered grand theft, regardless of the value of the gun or car.  Furthermore, theft from an individual person is always considered grand theft, regardless of the amount taken.

Other types of theft crimes include burglary, robbery and possession of stolen property.

Other Consequences

Not only can a theft conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences.  Theft crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude, which are crimes that relate to a person’s honesty.  Having a theft conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job.  Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks.  A professional who has a theft conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place.  Perhaps the most severe impact of a theft conviction involves immigration consequences.  Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied naturalization or admission or even deported, with a theft conviction on their record.

The Right Attorney

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal theft charges.  Many people who face theft charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment.  There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of theft, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence.  You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively.  You need the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah. 

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah and his team have the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients.   If a client has no criminal record, our attorneys can often negotiate a dismissal of the charges, either through a diversion program or through a civil compromise.   For clients that have been in trouble in the past or for more serious theft crimes, our attorneys can often negotiate a reduction of the charges or penalties, that may help avoid jail, licensing consequences or immigration consequences.   Our California criminal defense attorneys have helped clients with theft charges in the past.  For an example of their work, please see our case results and read our client testimonials.  With offices in Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside, our attorneys have criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernadino and Riverside Counties.

Fred Thiagarajah – The Right Lawyer.  The Right Result.  The Right Choice.

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A Former Deputy District Attorney

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Fred Thiagarajah is an Experienced Negotiator

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