In the State of California, any theft is a criminal offense; however, some thefts are worse than others. Theft offenses that include the most severe punishments if convicted are referred to as “grand theft” while smaller thefts are known as “petty thefts” in California. A conviction for grand theft in California can lead to a lengthy term of incarceration. Only an experienced California criminal defense attorney can review the facts of your case and provide you with specific advice, however, a better understanding of the theft laws in California may help if you have been charged with grand theft or petty theft.
The crime of theft includes the unlawful taking of someone else’s property. When the theft involves one of the following it is considered a grand theft:
- The property taken is valued at more than $950
- The property taken is a firearm or a vehicle
- The property is taken directly off the victim (a “snatch and grab” or mugging for example)
All too often the perpetrator of a theft crime doesn’t even realize that the crime qualifies as grand theft. Shoplifting, for example, can be charged as grand theft if the item(s) stolen are valued at over $950. Picking a high-end store to shoplift at, therefore, can invite grand theft charges. A pair of shoes taken from one store might only qualify for petty theft charges while a more expensive pair of shoes taken from another store may qualify for grand theft charges.
In most cases, the crime of grand theft is a “wobbler” in California. A “wobbler” is a criminal offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor in a case has the discretion to decide which way the crime will be charged. Often, the prosecutor will initially charge the offense as a felony, however, your defense attorney may be able to negotiate the charge down to the misdemeanor equivalent. If you are convicted of the misdemeanor grand theft you face a maximum of one year in jail while the felony grand theft conviction carries a potential term of imprisonment of 16 months, two years, or three years in California.
If you have been charged with grand theft in California you may have a defense to the charges. Consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your defense options and ensure that your rights are protected. For immediate help, contact San Diego theft defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo or call (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.