California code has specific and comprehensive statutes covering a variety of larceny crimes. Grand theft charges apply when a person unlawfully takes someone else’s “money, labor, or real or personal property” exceeding $950 in value. Grand theft falls into the “wobbler” category and, as a result, can carry misdemeanor or felony charges at the prosecution’s discretion.
To ensure you are treated fairly by the justice system and experience the best possible outcome for your case, contact a skilled Los Angeles DUI attorney.
California Penal Code §487 declares offenders guilty of theft when they “steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away” someone else’s personal property.
Additionally, charges of theft apply to those who
- Use fraudulent means to appropriate property entrusted to them
- Knowingly defraud someone of money, labor, or property
- Use pretense ton credit which they then use to secure money, property, or labor or services of another
Grand Theft Explained
California law acknowledges two degrees of theft: petty theft and grand theft.
If you steal property, money, or services valued at less than $950, you have committed petty theft. If the value of the stolen property exceeds $950, you have committed grand theft. Grand theft also applies if you steal another person’s vehicle or firearm. For certain properties, grand theft charges apply if the value of the stolen property exceeds $250.
California recognizes four categories of grand theft crimes:
- Grand theft by larceny
- Grand theft by false pretenses
- Grand theft by trick
- Grand theft by Embezzlement
Grand Theft by Larceny
When you commit grand theft by larceny, you take another person’s property and move it elsewhere. You don’t have to move the item far. If you move a person’s phone just a few inches away, putting it out of their sight so you can take it home with you later, you can be charged with grand larceny, provided the phone reaches the $950 value.
For a conviction, prosecutors must prove you
- took the person’s property without that person’s permission
- Intended to keep the property permanently or temporarily but long enough to deprive the owner of a substantial amount of the property’s value
- Actually moved the property
Grand Theft by False Pretenses
If you knowingly and purposefully tell another person something that is not true to deceive that person, you have made a “false pretense.” The act becomes criminal when you make that pretense with the intent to persuade the other person to allow you to take ownership of their property. Because that person trusted in your false pretense, they allowed you to take their property.
For example, you notice a friend wearing a large diamond ring. You convince them the stone is actually fake and offer to take the ring off their hands to spare them embarrassment. In reality, you plan to keep or sell the ring for your own benefit. If that person trusts your claim and gives you the ring, you have committed an act of grand theft.
To prove you have actually made a false pretense, prosecutors must show you intended to deceive the other person and did one of the following:
- Gave them information that you knew was false
- Claimed something as true though you have no evidence or reason to believe it is
- Failed to provide information you were obligated to give
- Made promises you had no intent of keeping
California law requires specific evidence to prove crimes of theft by false pretense. An experienced defense lawyer will make sure you are not convicted without sufficient evidence.
Grand Theft by Trick
There is a crucial distinction between grand theft by false pretense and grand theft by trick. Under the false pretense statute, the property owner gives you possession and ownership of their property. For grand theft by trick, the property owner does not intend to give you permanent ownership.
Committing grand theft by trick means
- You obtained someone else’s property, knowing the property was owned by that person
- You convinced the property owner to give you possession of the property through deceitful methods
- You took the property with the intent to keep it permanently or to keep it from the owner long enough to deprive them of enjoyment or a significant amount of the property’s value
- You held on to the property, even for just a brief time period
- The property’s rightful owner did not intend to give you ownership of that property
Grand Theft by Embezzlement
If another person gives you control of their property, trusting you to manage it honestly, and you instead deprive the owner of that property and use it to benefit yourself, you have committed grand theft by embezzlement. Even if you intend to return the property before your misdeeds are discovered, you have still committed the crime.
For example, if you work in an expensive clothing store and take, without permission, thousands of dollars of clothes, shoes, and accessories to wear to a fancy affair, you have committed grand theft by embezzlement. The charges apply even if you plan to return the items after the affair.
Legal Consequences for Grand Theft Crimes
To decide whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony crime, prosecutors will consider your criminal history and the specifics of your crime. If the property you stole was a firearm, felony charges are automatic, and the charge will count as a “strike” under California’s three-strikes sentencing laws.
Misdemeanor penalties can bring up to a year in county jail. Felony convictions can bring felony probation along with up to one year in jail, or a 16-month, or two- or three-year period of incarceration. You can also face sentencing enhancements of an additional one to four years in prison, depending on the value of the property stolen.
You Need a Strong Defender
A knowledgeable Los Angeles DUI attorney can help you fight grand theft charges. After investigating your case, your lawyer will mount a defense, perhaps proving you had no intent to steal, you had a right to the property, the owner consented to give you the property, or that you are a victim of false accusation. Whatever the circumstances, your lawyer will fight for you, protecting your interests and rights and delivering the best result possible.