Theft Offenses

Generally, theft is the unlawful taking of someone’s property. Theft offenses can characteristically be divided into two categories under the California Penal Code: petty theft and grand theft. This distinction is founded on the dollar value of the item or items you were alleged to have taken. Theft offenses under $950 or less constitute petty theft offenses while theft offenses of $950 or more are categorized as grand theft offenses. These categories are not all inclusive and there are some other specific forms of theft charges that you might encounter, depending on your circumstances.

Petty Theft (PC §§ 484, 488, 490)

Petty theft is the theft of money, labor, or real or personal property with a value equal to or less than $950. The value of the property stolen is based on the reasonable and fair market value and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test, if no contract, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered governs.

Penal Code § 484 identifies four types of petty theft: embezzlement, larceny, false pretenses, and theft by trick, with larceny being the most common petty theft crime. Larceny is defined as the taking and carrying away of tangible personal property of another by trespass with the intent to permanently (or for an unreasonable time) deprive the person of her/his interest in the property.

Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense that can be punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $1000. Therefore, it is important for you to contact a criminal attorney who can negotiate the best possible outcome on your behalf.

Grand Theft (PC §§ 487, 489)

Grand theft is the theft of money, labor, or real or personal property with a value of more than $950, based on the fair market value of the stolen property. Like petty theft, embezzlement, larceny, false pretenses, and theft by trick are all forms of grand theft.

Grand theft is a wobbler, meaning it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. If a grand theft offense is charged as a misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to one year in county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $1000. On the other hand, felony grand theft is punishable by a term of 16 months, two years, or three years or a fine of up to $10,000.

Examples of some common theft crimes are below:

Shoplifting (PC § 459.5)

In California, the crime of “Shoplifting” is the entering into a commercial establishment that is open during regular business hours with the intent to commit larceny, where the value of the property taken or intended to be taken does not exceed $950. In other words, attempting to commit this crime will suffice to charge you with this offense.

Any other entry into a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny is commercial burglary.

Shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor and punishable with a sentence of up to six months in county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $1000. However, if you have certain serious prior convictions on your record, then shoplifting may be punished as a felony.

Burglary (PC § 459 and PC § 460)

Burglary offenses involve entering the property of another, including structures, rooms, and vehicles, with the intent to commit a theft or felony therein. Burglary can be categorized as follows:

  1. Residential Burglary (PC § 460): Residential burglary (first-degree burglary) which is burglary of an inhabited dwelling. An inhabited dwelling is a structure where people live which can include homes, hotel rooms, and camping tents. Residential burglary is classified as a felony, counts as a strike under California’s three strikes law, and is punishable by a term of two, four, or six years in state prison.
  2. Commercial Burglary (PC § 459): Commercial Burglary (second-degree burglary) is the burglary of all other structures, which are not considered inhabited dwellings. Auto burglary is a type of second-degree burglary. It is committed by entering a locked vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony therein.

Unlike residential burglary, a commercial burglary is classified as a wobbler with misdemeanors carrying up to one year in county jail and felonies carrying a sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years.

Receiving Stolen Property (PC § 469)

Receiving stolen property makes it a crime for you to buy, sell, receive, conceal, or withholding from the owner property that has been stolen, and which you know stolen property.

In most cases, the California crime of receiving stolen property may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, if the total value of the property involved is $950 or less, then receiving stolen property can only be charged as a misdemeanor. In cases where stolen property values exceed $950, receiving stolen property is considered a wobbler and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

If this offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalty carries up to one year in county jail and/or $1,000 fine while a felony carries a sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Robbery (PC § 211)

Robbery is the taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence and against his will, by means of force or fear, done with the intent to permanently (or for an unreasonable time) deprive the rightful owner. Robbery is categorized as first-degree robbery and second-degree robbery.

First degree is when you commit a robbery in an inhabited structure, commit robbery drivers or passengers of buses, taxis, cars, subways, etc., or commit robbery of a person who has just used and is still in the vicinity of an ATM. Second-degree robbery is any robbery that does not fall within first degree.

First-degree robbery alone, without additional enhancements, carries a state prison sentence between three and nine years while carries a state prison sentence of two, three or five years.