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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Understanding California theft laws

If you ever face criminal charges for theft, it is important to understand the different laws about stealing in the state of California. According to our state's penal code, theft, or larceny, is the act of intentionally and unlawfully taking property. Crimes that fall under the umbrella of larceny include:

  • Robbery
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Identity theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Credit card theft
  • Failure to return leased or rented property
  • Defrauding someone of property

California also categorizes theft crimes by the value of the property involved. Knowing the specific classifications of theft will help you understand your case. Here are some helpful details about the different levels of California theft laws:

Petty theft

California lawmakers define petty theft as a crime that involves property valued at $950 or less. Most petty theft offenses are misdemeanors that come with maximum penalties of a one-thousand dollar fine and six months in jail.

Shoplifting

While shoplifting in some other states falls under petty theft, it is its own separate offense in California. Shoplifting refers to intending to steal property worth up to $950. It is a misdemeanor offense with maximum punishments of one year in jail. Shoplifting may also come with civil penalties, including paying damages and the retail value of the property.

Grand theft

Stealing property worth $950 or more is considered grand theft. This is a felony offense that is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years. When someone steals a motor vehicle, it is considered grand theft auto. 

Defenses against theft offenses

If you are dealing with California theft charges, you may be able to defend against them claiming:

  • You have right of possession or ownership
  • You have consent from the owner 
  • You are a victim of entrapment
  • There is a mistake regarding the facts of your case

The exact defenses you use will depend on your unique case and the counsel of your attorney. 

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