In 2010, California changed its laws related to prosecuting individuals for petty theft with priors. Ordinary, a petty theft offense is committed when an individual steals property or money from another person in the amount not exceeding $950. A misdemeanor petty theft offense is punishable by a fine or by imprisonment in a county jail for up to six month. However, when a person is later convicted of one or more similar offense, the law punishes subsequent violations more severely than the original. Under the previous California statute, the law required just one prior petty theft conviction in order to elevate a current petty theft conviction to a felony wobbler for which an individual may be sentenced to state prison.
Now, however, the law requires proof of at least three prior convictions, not just one, for individuals to be prosecuted for a felony wobbler offense of petty theft with a prior. This change was intended to allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to avoid the costs of imprisonment associated with a particular class of offenders – those with fewer than three prior convictions for qualifying theft-related crimes. Keep in mind, though, that there is no requirement for an individual to have three or more prior petty theft convictions in order to be convicted of a felony. Rather, to elevate petty theft to a felony wobbler, a person must be presently convicted at least three times of other theft-related crimes, for example, grand theft, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or a felony violation of receiving stolen property for which that person actually received jail time.
At the same time, the requirement of three or more prior convictions does not apply when a person is required to register as a sex offender or has a prior serious or violent felony conviction. Under such circumstances, only one prior theft-related crime is required in order to elevate petty theft to a felony wobbler. In the event that such an individual does have a serious felony prior conviction, the law allows punishment for the subsequent petty theft offense under the Three Strikes law. This means that a person may face a life sentence for committing petty theft after having been previously convicted of two or more “strike” priors. Because this offense carries serious consequences, it is very important to consult an experience criminal law attorney, who will provide honest and accurate advice on how to avoid such a conviction.
The Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo handles all types of matters related to theft crimes and white collar offenses in San Diego County. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122, or: email@example.com.