Is there a more tragic story than an innocent individual being sent to prison? According to the National Registry of Exonerations, perjury and wrong accusation have been the real reasons behind unjustified imprisonment. The number of innocent people who are wrongly accused of theft crimes based on false allegations or misleading evidence may be surprising.
On the other hand, many people rightfully charged with theft crimes are good, productive individuals who made a regrettable mistake. If you or your loved one is accused of a theft crime in Los Angeles – now or in the future – call to schedule a consultation right away.
The Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin in Beverly Hills is an acclaimed criminal defense law firm that serves clients throughout the Los Angeles Area. Our focus is offering competent legal representation to those facing charges related to theft crimes. Contact us today or call us at 310-273-9600 for a free consultation about your criminal charges.
What Constitutes Theft Crimes in California?
Under California law, theft is a crime whereby one takes or withholds someone else’s property without the owner’s consent. Theft can involve personal property, money, real property, a person’s identity, and the value of labor or services. There are basically four categories of theft crimes in California that can lead to criminal liability under Penal Code 484 PC. They include:
Theft crime by larceny
An individual that takes, steals, carries, leads or drives away another person’s property is said to have committed theft by larceny. For you to be convicted of this theft crime, the prosecution is required to prove that:
- You took property, money, or identity owned by someone else, and
- You took it without the owner’s consent, and
- You intended to remove the object from the owner’s possession permanently, thus depriving the owner a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the object, and
- You moved the property/object, even a small distance, and kept it for any duration of time, however brief.
Theft crime by pretense
An individual who knowingly obtains money, personal property, or labor from another person by pretense or false representation is said to have committed theft by pretense. For you to be convicted of this theft crime, the prosecution is required to prove that:
- You knowingly and deliberately deceived a property owner by pretense or false representation, and
- You did so with the intention of influencing the owner to allow you to take possession and ownership of the property, and
- The property owner allowed you possession and ownership of the property because he/she relied on your false representation or pretense.
Theft crime by trick
An individual who uses deceit or fraud to obtain possession or ownership of personal property or asset is said to have committed theft by trick. For you to be convicted of this theft crime, the prosecutor is required to prove that:
- You acquired another person owned personal property or asset you knew, and
- The owner consented to your possession of the property or asset because you used deceit or fraud, and
- The owner of the property or asset did not intend to transfer ownership, and
- After obtaining the property or asset, you aimed to permanently remove it from the owner’s possession and deprive the owner of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property or asset, and
- You kept the property or asset for any length of time.
Theft by embezzlement
An individual who fraudulently appropriate property, an asset, or money, which was entrusted to him/her is said to have committed theft by embezzlement. For you to be convicted of this theft crime, the prosecution is required to prove that:
- The owner entrusted his/her property, asset or money to you because he/she trusted you, and
- You fraudulently used the property that was entrusted to you for your benefit, and
- When you used the property, you intended to deprive the owner of its use.
Theft crimes in California are further categorized differently depending on what is stolen, the value of what’s stolen, and how the theft was carried out. The main classifications include:
- Petty theft: This constitutes any theft that involves property whose value is less than $950. A first offense is considered a misdemeanor, while a second offense can be considered a felony.
- Grand theft: This constitutes any theft that involves property whose value is more than $950. Majority of grand thefts are considered felonies. A crime involving the theft of a firearm whose value is less than $950 is considered grand theft. If the value of the stolen firearm exceeds $950, the theft crime is considered a felony. Also, a crime involving the theft of a car whose value exceeds $950 is also considered grand theft.
- Robbery: This constitutes theft crimes where one uses threats, force or violence to take property from another person’s immediate possession. Robbery also counts as a strike under California Three Strikes Laws.
- Burglary: Entering a structure with the intent to steal something that’s inside constitutes a burglary. If the structure is an inhabited dwelling or a home, then residential burglary may be charged. Residential burglary is considered a first-degree burglary while breaking into a non-residential building is considered second-degree burglary. If a vehicle is broken into, then auto burglary may be charged.
- Shoplifting: Entering a commercial building and stealing something that’s inside constitutes shoplifting. The first offense is considered a misdemeanor offense, while a second offense can be charged as a felony.
- Carjacking: If an individual uses threats, fear or force to take a vehicle from someone else’s immediate possession, carjacking may be charged.
When accused or charged with any of the above theft crimes, it’s best to talk to an experienced and competent defense attorney at Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin. Our highly experienced attorney will provide you with immediate assistance and will answer all your questions regarding the specific facts of your theft case.
Punishment and Sentencing of Theft Crimes in California
The punishment and sentencing of theft crimes in California vary depending on the type and nature of the crime. Let’s take a look at the punishment for each of the different types of theft crimes:
- Punishment for petty theft
Petty theft conviction attracts a six months jail sentence. A fine of up to $1,000 may also be imposed on convicted offenders. For thefts of property or assets that are valued at less than $50, the crime may be charged as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor. However, if the defendant has prior theft convictions, the court may not show any leniency.
- Punishment for grand theft
In California, grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case at hand and the defendant’s criminal history. When convicted of a misdemeanor grand theft, one faces up to 1 year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. When convicted of a felony grand theft, one faces a sentence of sixteen months2-3 years in county jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Punishment for burglary
Simply entering or breaking into a residential building with an intention to steal is enough to convict one of first-degree burglary. Convicted offenders can be sentenced to up to 6 years in prison, or they can be fined up to $10,000. A second-degree burglary can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the case and the defendant’s criminal history. A misdemeanor second-degree burglary conviction attracts a sentence of up to 1 year in county jail, while a felony second-degree burglary conviction attracts a sentence of up to 3 years in prison.
- Punishment for robbery
Since it often involves the use of force or threat and puts others at risk, robbery is usually charged as a felony in California. Those convicted of a first-degree robbery can be sentenced to up to 9 years in state prison. Those convicted of second-degree robbery can be sentenced to up to 5 years in state prison.
- Punishment for carjacking
If you steal a parked vehicle from a driveway, garage or the street, the crime is considered grand theft. If you steal a car directly from its owner or driver by using force, threats or intimidation, then the crime is considered carjacking. A carjacking conviction in California is punishable by up to 9 years in prison.
- Punishment for possession of stolen property
If you’re found in possession of stolen property, the crime can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor charge, you can be sentenced to up to 1-year imprisonment, or you can be fined up to $1,000. If convicted of a felony charge, you can be sentenced to up to 3-years imprisonment, or you can be fined up to $10,000.
Defenses for Theft Crimes
Could you be falsely accused of any of these theft crimes? Well, it happens all the time in California. You might have been misidentified as a shoplifter or as a thief by a mistaken eyewitness. You could have logically thought that the supposedly ‘stolen’ property was really yours. At times, burglary, theft, or robbery charge are entirely made-up.
When accused of a theft crime, our attorney can help you to strategize about the best possible defenses. Some of the most commonly used defense strategies used against theft crime charges include:
- Lack of specific intent: regardless of which type of theft crime you’re being accused of, you can only be considered guilty if it’s proven that you particularly meant to commit the theft. Otherwise, the incident is considered a misunderstanding or accident.
- Lack of asportation: under California law, theft cannot be considered a true theft if the allegedly stolen property wasn’t moved or if the accused person didn't fully possess it.
- Lack of false pretense: You cannot be charged for theft by false pretense if the prosecution cannot prove that you gave out information in bad faith. Furthermore, you cannot be blamed for holding back information that you were not obligated to provide. Moreover, you cannot be convicted of theft by false pretense just because you were unable to keep a promise you made.
- Approval to shift property ownership: If you’re accused with theft by trick, you cannot be guilty in California if your attorney can prove that the property owner intended to transfer the ownership of the property to you.
- Proof of agreement: When facing an embezzlement charge, your criminal defense attorney can argue that you had valid legal permission to make use of the property in question for the purpose for which you utilized it.
- Approval of use: If accused of grand theft, your defense attorney can argue that you had reasonably believed that you had the owner’s permission to utilize the property in question. If he can demonstrate that you didn’t intend to possess the property and deprive the property owner of it, then the incident cannot be considered as theft.
At times, the prosecution may come with overwhelming evidence. Even then, our aggressive criminal defense attorney can often negotiate an arrangement with the prosecutor or judge to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Legal Help
At the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, we perfectly understand the pressure our clients feel when charged with any of the California theft crimes. We are also familiar with the intricacy of the state's legal system, and the complexity of the court processes in the local L.A. Area. This puts us at an opportune position to offer the best possible legal representation to those accused of theft crimes in the region.
Without a competent attorney, it’s highly unlikely for you to fight the hefty charges brought against you. Let us use our expertise and experience to defend you against any kind of theft crime you’re accused of. We have what it takes to defend clients charged with all manner of theft crimes in Los Angeles, and we are always ready to offer our legal assistance whenever we are called upon.
If you’ve been arrested, under investigation, or are facing a charge for any of the theft crimes in California, contact Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin today. Also feel free to call our criminal defense attorney at 310-273-9600 for a free consultation.