In California, a theft related conviction can be particularly harmful with respect to gaining future employment, obtaining state licensing, as well other benefits. Although most theft convictions can eventually be expunged, they can still show up on background checks. Prospective employers tend to be extra cautious of applicants with theft records, often due to fear that such applicants are untruthful may steal from their employers.
Additionally, a vast majority California theft offenses are considered “crimes of moral turpitude,” which can lead to more adverse consequences when applying for state licenses or certifications. These convictions may additionally pose negative immigration consequences for those seeking visas, green cards, or naturalization to the United States.
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Common California Theft Crimes
Below you will see some of the most common theft crimes that are often charged by prosecuting agencies throughout the state of California:
- Petty Theft/Larceny: Under Penal Code §484 and §488, this is the stealing of property valued up to $950. Although the offense is a misdemeanor, a second offense can potentially be charged as a felony under Penal Code 666 (Petty Theft with a Prior).
- Grand Theft: Under Penal Code §487, this is the stealing of property valued at more than $950 (i.e. stolen property valued at $951). Depending on the circumstances, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Grand Theft Auto: the same rules as above apply to theft of a vehicle. However, unlike the video games of the same name, in real life grand theft auto can have some very serious consequences.
- Shoplifting – 459.5 PC: If an individual enters a commercial establishment while it is open to the public with the intent to steal something while inside constitutes the crime of shoplifting under Penal Code 459.5 PC.
- Robbery: An individual commits Robbery in California if he/she uses violence, force or threats to take property from someone’s immediate possession. It should be noted that this type of offense counts as a strike under California Three Strikes Laws.
- Carjacking: Pursuant to Penal Code §215, this is basically robbery of a vehicle. If one uses force or fear to take a vehicle from someone’s immediate possession, a California carjacking may be charged.
- Receiving Stolen Property: If an individual purchases or receives property that he/she knows (or reasonably should know) is stolen, then the individual has violated Penal Code §496 – receiving stolen property.
- Burglary: Under Penal Code §459, entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft while inside constitutes burglary in California. This is not just limited to homes and it can apply to any sort of structure including garages, vehicles, sealed cargo container, or an aircraft. However, if the structure is a home or an “inhabited dwelling,” then you can be charged with residential burglary which counts as a “strike” pursuant to California Three Strikes Laws.
Possible Defenses for California Theft Crimes
When someone is accused of theft in California, there are several ways to challenge the allegations. These defenses are like legal arguments that can be used to protect a person accused of theft. Keep in mind that every situation is different, and only a knowledgeable attorney can determine if any of the below are plausible for your specific circumstances.
- Lack of Intent: If the accused person didn’t mean to steal or take something permanently. For example, if they thought the item was theirs.
- Consent: If the owner of the item said it was okay for the accused to take it, this can be a strong defense. But the consent must be freely given.
- Claim of Right: If the accused believed they had a right to the property, that can be a defense. This might apply in situations involving shared property, or unclear ownership.
- Mistaken Identity: If there’s evidence showing that the accused person wasn’t the one who did the theft, they might use a defense based on mistaken identity.
- Duress: If the accused was forced to commit the theft because they were threatened or pressured, they can use the duress defense.
- Property Belongs to the Accused: If the accused can prove that the property in question actually belongs to them, that’s a valid defense against theft charges.
- Entrapment: If law enforcement officers or their agents encouraged the accused to commit the theft, they might have an entrapment defense.
- Value of Property: In cases of grand theft, if the value of the property is very close to the legal limit, the defense might challenge the value.
- Ownership Dispute: If there’s a genuine disagreement about who owns the property, the defense may argue that no theft occurred.
- Statute of Limitations: Sometimes, theft charges aren’t brought within the legally allowed time, and that can be a defense.
Fighting a California Theft Charge
At the Law Office of Ashley Daniel, an experienced California theft crime attorney can potentially help you defeat the criminal theft charge and keep the matter off your record. The first step is to carefully analyze the alleged facts to see if the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – a very high standard. If it turns out there is not enough evidence, then the case can be dismissed or you can win a not guilty verdict at trial.
Alternatively, if the facts are overwhelmingly in the prosecution’s favor, then other alternatives may be available in the form of reduced charges or dismissals.
In California, theft crimes are treated very harshly and the Law Office of Ashley Daniel can help you fight your case and protect your freedom. To Contact us and schedule a free consultation with an Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer simply fill out the form on this page or call us. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with theft crime you need the best representation from an experienced attorney.