The majority of petty theft crimes in Los Angeles are charged as misdemeanor offenses and rarely involve jail time for first offenders. However, some petty theft crimes can be elevated to felony level offenses, which carry considerable penalties, including a state prison sentence and substantial fines, plus a felony conviction on your criminal record. Only with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney can you effectively fight petty theft charges and possibly have them dismissed or reduced to a lesser, non-theft offense. If you are facing criminal charges for petty theft in Los Angeles, contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today at (213) 205-3100. With our petty theft defense lawyers on your side, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected and significantly improve your chances of reaching a favorable conclusion to your criminal case.
Affordable Petty Theft Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Petty theft is a serious crime that can result in life-altering consequences and hiring a knowledgeable Los Angeles petty theft defense attorney can help minimize the negative impact of your criminal charges. Our defense attorneys at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime, find weak spots in the prosecution’s case against you, and determine whether your rights were violated at any time during the investigation. If you have no prior criminal record, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reach a favorable plea deal or an agreement on sentencing, including allowing you to complete a drug diversion program instead of serving time in jail. Depending on the circumstances of your case, our lawyers may be able to help you avoid a criminal petty theft conviction altogether, especially if you have no prior convictions and the nature of your alleged offense was minor.
One of the most common theft crimes in California is petty theft, a broad term used to describe the unlawful theft of another person’s property or goods valued at less than $950, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property. Due to the wide-reaching definition of California petty theft, there are a great number of scenarios that can result in petty theft charges, including shoplifting makeup worth a couple hundred dollars from a beauty store, taking a $400 cell phone from a shipment of phones you are asked to deliver for your company, and “borrowing” a $200 blender from a friend or neighbor with no intention of returning it.
You can face criminal charges for petty theft in Los Angeles if you take property or goods without permission using trick, larceny, fraud or embezzlement. Petty theft by trick involves the use of deceit to convince another person to give you possession of their property; petty theft by larceny involves unlawfully taking property from another person with the intention of depriving that person of its use and enjoyment; petty theft by fraud or false pretense involves intentionally lying in order to convince another person to give you possession of their property; and petty theft by embezzlement involves unlawfully taking property that has been entrusted to you.
Conviction for Petty Theft Penal Code § 484(a)
After being arrested for a petty theft crime, it can feel like the deck is stacked against you. Facing criminal charges is scary, and it’s easy to feel lost and confused when you’re up against a state’s attorney. However, it’s important to remember that the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor in a petty theft case, and that means, in order to get a petty theft conviction, the other side is required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime, including that you:
- Took possession of property owned by someone else;
- Took the property without the owner’s consent;
- Intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property; and
- Moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.
How is Petty Theft Different from Shoplifting?
Although shoplifting goods from a store can result in petty theft charges, shoplifting (Penal Code § 459.5 PC) and petty theft (Penal Code § 484(a) PC) are two separate crimes under California law. The criminal act of shoplifting involves: entering a commercial establishment while it is open, during regular business hours, with the intent to steal items valued at $950 or less, i.e. committing petty theft. As part of Proposition 47, passed in 2014, shoplifting became a separate offense in the state of California, carrying less severe criminal penalties than it formerly did under California’s burglary law. Keep in mind that a defendant accused of stealing or attempting to steal items from a store can only be charged with shoplifting or petty theft, not both, and the criminal penalties for the two offenses are the same for most defendants. The main difference between shoplifting and petty theft is that you can be charged with California shoplifting even if you don’t actually succeed in stealing the goods in question, so long as you have the intent to steal them. Petty theft, on the other hand, focuses on the actual theft of property.
Penalties for a Petty Theft Conviction
Pursuant to California law, a person charged with theft can face charges of petty theft or grand theft, depending on the details of the alleged crime. If the property or goods the defendant allegedly stole is valued at $950 or less, he or she may be charged with petty theft under Penal Code § 484(a) PC and § 488 PC, while the theft of goods worth more than $950 may result in grand theft charges under Penal Code § 487 PC.
Petty theft is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense in California, punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, plus probation, restitution to the victim and community service. However, there are certain situations in which a petty theft charge can be reduced to an infraction under Penal Code § 490.1 PC or elevated to a felony offense under Penal Code § 666 PC, depending on the value of the property stolen, the defendant’s criminal record, and the extent of harm suffered by the victims.
As a felony offense, California petty theft is a much more serious crime, and a conviction can result in penalties possibly including up to three years in state prison, up to $10,000 in fines, and/or probation. Furthermore, California petty theft is classified as a crime of moral turpitude, and a conviction on these charges can lead to serious consequences for people with immigration issues, possibly including deportation from the U.S. or denial of naturalization or citizenship.
The crime of grand theft, on the other hand, is a “wobbler” offense pursuant to Penal Code § 487 PC, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime at the prosecutor’s discretion. When making this decision, the prosecutor will likely take into consideration the defendant’s criminal record and the value of the goods in question, among other factors of the case. Some other crimes related to California petty theft include to Penal Code § 484 and 487 PC grand theft, grand theft auto and grand theft firearm; Penal Code § 459 PC burglary and auto burglary; and Penal Code § 211 PC robbery.
Defenses to Petty Theft Charges
Just because you have been charged with California petty theft does not mean you will be convicted of the crime. It is your Constitutional right to hire an attorney to represent your case and assert any legal argument that can explain, justify and/or excuse your alleged behavior. Some possible defenses that may be helpful in your Los Angeles petty theft case include the following:
- You mistakenly took property;
- You had permission to take the property;
- You owned the property you are accused of taking;
- You did not intend to steal the property;
- Your Constitutional rights were violated;
- You have been falsely accused; or
- You are the victim of mistaken identity.
Hiring a Skilled Petty Theft Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Petty theft is the lowest level theft crime you can be charged with in California, but it is still a serious offense that could result in life-changing criminal penalties, and it takes the expertise of a criminal defense attorney with extensive legal training to effectively fight misdemeanor or felony petty theft charges. If you or a loved one has been accused of petty theft in Los Angeles, do not take the charges lightly. Even though California petty theft is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense, a conviction can still result in jail time, significant fines and restitution to the victim, among other penalties. And even after you have paid your debt to society, you will still carry the burden of a criminal record, which can adversely impact your future job opportunities, professional licenses and citizenship status. Consult our skilled legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to discuss how best to defend yourself against these criminal charges.