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Jul 27, 2020

Theft Felony Laws in California

If you’ve been arrested for theft in Alameda County, it’s important to understand the distinction between petty theft laws and theft felony laws in California. The difference between petty theft and grand theft is the value of the property stolen. Generally speaking, if the value is up to and including $950, then it is considered petty theft. If the value is more than $950, then it is considered grand theft.

There are exceptions to the $950 threshold. For example, if farm crops or domestic fowl with a wholesale value of more than $250 are stolen, then it’s considered grand theft. The same is true if the items stolen are aquacultural products like fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. In other words, stealing lobster, crabs, or abalone with a wholesale value of more than $250 can lead to a charge of grand theft.

Grand theft can also be charged when an employee, agent, or domestic staff member takes money or property over a 12-month period that has a cumulative value of more than $950. In addition, the charge is always grand theft when a car or firearm is stolen.

California Penal Code Section 487 also enumerates a number of other types of stolen property that constitute grand theft. They include:

  • Stealing or defrauding someone out of livestock or a farm animal, stealing the carcass of livestock or a farm animal, or killing livestock or a farm animal without the owner’s consent
  • Stealing mining equipment or mining proceeds
  • Stealing a dog valued at over $950
  • Stealing an animal for commercial use, such as resale, medical research, or slaughter
  • Stealing cargo valued at more than $950 that is loaded into a trailer or cargo container
  • Defrauding a public housing authority of more than $400
  • Stealing copper valued at more than $950
  • Stealing tractors, ATVs, or agricultural equipment used in food production that is valued at more than $950

Proving Grand Theft by Larceny in California

If you’ve been arrested on grand theft charges in Alameda County, you may be charged with grand theft by larceny, grand theft by false pretenses, grand theft by trick, or grand theft by embezzlement. Regardless of the grand theft charge you face, your first call should be to an Oakland grand theft attorney. They understand that the prosecutor faces an uphill battle in proving their case, and can find opportunities to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case in order to get the best possible outcome for you.

If you’ve been charged with grand theft by larceny, then the prosecutor has to prove that you took the property of another person without their consent, that you intended to take the property for a period of time, and that you moved or kept the property. They also must prove that the property’s value exceeded $950, or that you stole a vehicle or firearm.

Let’s say that Christopher could tell that the delivery box on Daniel’s porch was Daniel’s new gaming computer. Christopher grabs the $2,500 computer and takes it next door to his house. Perhaps he planned to return it to Christopher, but maybe not. He is charged with grand theft.

An Alameda County grand theft lawyer could argue, for example, that Christopher took the computer off of Daniel’s porch because Christopher was afraid that it would be stolen. The could assert that Daniel gave Christopher permission to use the computer, or simply that Christopher forgot to bring the computer back to Daniel.

Proving Grand Theft by False Pretenses in California

California Penal Code Section 532 covers theft by false pretenses, and is fairly convoluted. There are a number of misdemeanors listed, including:

  • Misrepresenting oneself as a veteran as part of the sale of any property or to obtain money or property
  • Falsely claiming a military decoration on documents in order to obtain money or property
  • Using falsified military identification to obtain money or property
  • Misrepresenting oneself by wearing a military uniform in order to promote a business or charity
  • Misrepresenting oneself as a veteran in order to gain an employment advantage
  • Making false statements while soliciting or receiving money or property for a charitable or religious purpose
  • Kickbacks for real estate construction work

Grand theft by false pretenses can involve mortgage fraud, defrauding another person of property or money, or getting credit because of defrauding another person – as long as the amount at stake is more than $950. For example, let’s say that Daniel is in a financial bind and can’t make his motorcycle payments. Christopher offers Daniel the option of putting Christopher’s name on the pink slip in exchange for Christopher making the motorcycle payments and Daniel continuing to ride the motocycle. Christopher doesn’t make the payments, but does use the motorcycle as collateral for a line of credit. Christopher can be charged with grand theft by false pretenses.

In order to convict Christopher, the prosecutor has to delicately thread a needle. Because people can enter into business deals involving property and then try to get out of them by accusing the other person of false pretenses, there are certain evidentiary requirements for a successful prosecution. For example, evidence needs to include something like a fake contract or something in writing that proves the false pretenses. Alternately, the prosecution needs to trot out two witnesses, or one witness along with another form of evidence.

Overall, the prosecutor needs to prove that Christopher intentionally deceived Daniel, that he intended to persuade Daniel to hand over his motorcycle, and that Christopher agreed because of Daniel’s pretense.

If you’ve been charged with grand theft by false pretenses, it’s critical to contact an Alameda County grand theft lawyer right away. It’s difficult to successfully prosecute a grand theft by false pretenses case, but you need the help of an Oakland grand theft attorney to successfully defend against the charges.

Proving Grand Theft by Trick in California

In Alameda County and the rest of California, grand theft by trick is similar to grand theft by false pretenses. The difference is that, with grand theft by trick, the property owner doesn’t intend to transfer ownership to the other person. For example, let’s say that Christopher offers to drive Daniel’s motorcycle to Daniel’s mother’s house, and Daniel agrees. But instead of driving the motorcycle to Daniel’s mother’s house, Christopher drives it to his own girlfriend’s house and hides the motorcycle in his girlfriend’s garage. Christopher can be charged with grand theft by trick.

In order to prove Christopher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor has to demonstrate that Christopher knew that Daniel owned the motorcycle, that Daniel only agreed to Christopher using the motorcycle because Christopher deceived Daniel, that Christopher intended to deprive Daniel of his motorcycle, and that Daniel didn’t intend to transfer ownership of the motorcycle to Christopher.

Proving Grand Theft by Embezzlement in California

California Penal Code Section 503 covers theft by embezzlement. At its core, embezzlement occurs when someone entrusts property to another person, and that other person appropriates it or intends to appropriate it. This includes:

  • A public or private employee who misuses or takes the employer’s property
  • Someone who takes or conceals property that is rented or leased to them
  • Someone who sells secured property and doesn’t pay the lienholder
  • A delivery driver that takes a package for their own use
  • Someone in financial services, including a debt collector, who appropriates another person’s property for unauthorized use

Let’s say that Daniel owned a store and that Christopher worked for Daniel as a clerk. If Christopher siphoned off money from the cash register or took some of the store’s products for his own use, Christopher can be charged with theft by embezzlement.

In order to achieve a guilty verdict at trial, the prosecutor must prove that Daniel entrusted his property to Christopher because he trusted Christopher, that Christopher used Daniel’s property for his own benefit, and that, in doing so, Christopher intended to deprive Daniel of the property.

If you’ve been charged with grand theft by embezzlement in Alameda County, you need a seasoned Oakland grand theft attorney by your side. Your attorney can design a credible defense that can lead the prosecutor to drop the charges, or that can pave the way for an agreement to lesser charges. If your case goes to trial, your Alameda County grand theft attorney can assert, for example, that you believed you were acting on the authorization of the person claiming to be a victim. Your lawyer may argue that you didn’t fraudulently use the property, or that you didn’t intend to deprive the other person of their property.

Grand Theft Penalties in California

If the property taken is valued at $950 or less, then the criminal charge is petty theft. If the value of the item is $50 or less, then the petty theft is a wobbler and can be charged as either an infraction or a misdemeanor. An infraction can mean a fine between $50 and $1,000, and a jail sentence of up to six months.

Petty theft of something valued between $51 and $950 is a misdemeanor, and the penalty for a conviction is up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the property is valued above $950, or if the item stolen is a vehicle or a firearm, then the charge is grand theft.

In Alameda County and the rest of California, grand theft is considered a wobbler, which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or felony can depend on your criminal history, the experience of your Oakland grand theft attorney, and the specific circumstances of your case. For example, if you are charged with stealing a gun, it is always charged as a felony.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor grand theft, then you face up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If you are convicted of felony grand theft, then the jail sentence can be 16 months, two years, or three years, and you can be fined up to $5,000. A felony conviction can result in a sentence enhancement if the value of the property was high. For example, if the property stolen was worth more than $65,000, you can receive an additional consecutive sentence of one year. If the property was worth more than $200,000, the additional sentence is two years. If the property was worth more than $1.3 million, then the enhancement is three years, and if the property was worth $3.2 million, the enhancement is four years.

The penalties outlined by theft felony laws in California don’t always have bright lines. For example, if you’re accused of partnering with one or more other people to steal merchandise or receive stolen merchandise from a brick-and-mortar or online store, then that is considered organized retail theft. If the aggregate dollar amount stolen over 12 months totals more than $950, then you can be charged with either misdemeanor or felony grand theft.

In another example, if you’re convicted of stealing more than $950 worth of copper, the misdemeanor fine increases to a maximum of $2,500 and the felony fine increases to a maximum of $10,000.

Other Theft Felony Laws in California

California has a number of other felony laws that touch on theft. For example, burglary is charged as a felony, and can carry a substantial sentence – three years – with potential enhancements if the building was occupied or if you attempted to open a secured item, like a safe. Forgery is a wobbler, and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Robbery is a felony theft law, and a conviction carries a maximum sentence of six years.

If you’ve been charged with theft, you should immediately call Silver Law Firm. The Alameda County grand theft attorneys at Silver Law Firm have the experience you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. There’s no time to waste. Call today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.



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