Theft Offenses

Theft offenses are crimes involving a taking of property not belonging to the taker. Whether the taking was from a person or a place will determine how these offenses will be charged. The distinction in how theft offenses are charged is very important because the consequences can vary drastically.

For example, if a person is arrested shoplifting for the first time, she will likely be charged with a misdemeanor and offered a program or a few days in jail. On the other hand a residential burglary is charged as a felony and it is not uncommon for the DA to make an offer of state prison even if the accused has no criminal history. A first degree burglary conviction also qualifies as a strike, affecting the person’s credits for good time served. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony lies largely on the sentencing for each. A person convicted of a misdemeanor cannot be sentenced to more than one year in county jail while a person convicted of a felony can spend years incarcerated in a state prison.

The severity of the charges also depends on the person’s criminal record, the intent of the person when committing the crime and the value of what was taken. A person with a long theft related record who is caught shoplifting faces the risk of being charged with a felony for simple petty theft with a prior (California Penal Code section 666). Also, if police or the prosecution can point to some direct or circumstantial evidence that tends to show intent to steal before the accused entered the store, a misdemeanor petty theft charge can become a felony commercial burglary. For this purpose, prosecutors often look for empty bags, quick focused action while in the store, failure to purchase other items and lack of ability to pay for the items taken. Lastly, the value of the items taken can affect whether a theft charge is charged as petty or grand theft. Currently, in California, to be charged with grand theft, the money, real or personal property taken must generally be $950 or more. Interestingly, you can be charged with grand theft if accused of taking domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops in the value of over $250.

As former prosecutors, our attorneys understand the subtle differences that can determine the severity of a criminal charge and possible consequences. Our attorneys have handled countless theft cases both as prosecutors and defense counsel and are qualified to advise you based on the specific facts surrounding your case. They will help choose the best course of action for your theft charges.