Petty Theft

Petty theft 484(a)1

What is a petty theft (1)?

The statute for petty theft is quite complicated:

Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.

In the end, an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can break things down for you and see what your best options are.

What elements does the prosecution need to prove to the jury?

During trial, the prosecution must use evidence to prove the elements, or different aspects, of the charged offense. 

  • Defendant committed a theft; AND
  • The amount of the property is more or less than $950.

One crucial difference between shoplifting and petty theft (1) is intent. The prosecution does not need to take extra steps connecting the intent to steal the item. Only the theft needs to be proven. 

Can a petty theft (1) be a felony?

Yes, it is considered a wobbler. Petty theft (1) crimes can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. If the amount is over $950, a felony grand theft can be charged. If the amount is under $950, a misdemeanor petty theft (1) would be charged. There are other factors that would make the theft a felony such as using force or fear, utilizing a weapon, stealing from a protected person or an official, and priors.

Petty Theft (1) with Priors – Cal. Pen. Code § 666 (2)

Prosecutors will look at your previous criminal history before filing this charge. If they see you have priors, they can instead charge you with this code section. This can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is a felony, it carries the maximum of 3 years in prison and $10,000 fine.

What is the punishment for misdemeanor petty theft (1)?

A person can serve up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Many alleged victims of petty theft (1)will also request restitution. Restitution is when the defendant makes the victim whole again, in petty thefts (1), restitution is usually returning the items or paying for them.

What are defenses to Cal. Pen. Code § 484(a) Petty Theft (1)?

  • Mistaken identity: if there is evidence that proves you were not there at the time, securing an alibi, or if the video is unclear and there is doubt on who the person could be.
  • Claim right to property
  • Civil compromise: if a request for payment is sent and you have made the payment, the prosecution can choose to dismiss the case. This means restitution (3) is paid in full. This is governed by Cal. Pen. Code § 1378 (4). There are exceptions that apply also in Cal. Pen. Code § 1377 (5).
  • Pretrial Diversion: There are several types of diversion you may be eligible for. The best way to find out is to speak with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Orange County.

Petty thefts (1) as a felony or misdemeanor can be expunged after the case is over. When you want to expunge your record, you must look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. To see if you are eligible for an expungement, you should have your charges analyzed by an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney.

Types of Petty Theft (1)

Theft by larceny
This is the most common type of petty theft (1). This means personal property, money, real property, or value of labor was taken. This can include several things:

  • Jewelry
  • Clothes
  • Makeup
  • Shoes
  • Electronics
  • Medication
  • Alcohol
  • Cash
  • Cigarettes

Theft by embezzlement
When someone is trusted with money and they take all or some of it, they can be charged with theft by embezzlement. If the amount is under $950, it would be charged as a felony.

Example: Monica runs the register at a local candle store. Steve comes in and purchases a black flame candle which he intends to light on Halloween. The item costs $15. Monica charges $20 for the item. Monica pockets $5 of money. Because Monica intends on keeping it, she could be criminal liable for theft by embezzlement.

Theft by fraud
When someone lies or uses deceit to take something, they can be charged with theft by fraud.

Example: A Canadian prince Phillipe emails Katie and requests she sends him money because his assets are tied up and he’s unable to access his money. He promises Katie that he will reimburse her the money when he can. This Canadian prince was actually not a prince but a person named Phil that convinces people to give him money in this manner. Because Phil does not reimburse people and does not intend to reimburse people, he could be guilty of theft by fraud.

What Immigration consequences can a conviction have for petty theft (1)?

It depends. A petty theft (1) conviction might have immigration consequences. While deportation for this offense is rare, it is very possible and could prevent you from gaining other types of immigration status. It could prevent a resident from naturalizing to become a citizen or someone from obtaining a green card. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Orange County, CA that will protect your immigration concerns during your criminal case. 

What are similar theft cases that could be misdemeanors?

Petty Theft with a prior - Cal. Pen. Code § 666 (6): Prosecutors will look at your previous criminal history before filing this charge. If they see you have priors, they can instead charge you with this code section. This can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is a felony, it carries the maximum of 3 years in prison and $10,000 fine. If you have been charged with a complicated theft offense, be sure to hire an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney located in Orange County, CA.

Receiving stolen property – Cal. Pen. Code § 496 (7): In California, you could be charged with this if you have bought, received, or sold a stolen good. This could be charged as a felony, with prison time, or a misdemeanor with similar punishments as shoplifting. The elements are very complicated. 

Shoplifting – Cal. Pen. Code § 459.5

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime, and the statute specifies the amount must be under $950. If the property stolen amounts to more than $950 you could be charged with a felony. (8). Unlike Petty Theft (1), Shoplifting does not require an actual theft.