Petty Theft in California

california petty theft

According to California law (Penal Code §484 and §488), if the value of all money, goods, services, and other things of value obtained as a result of a thief does not exceed $950, it is considered to be a petty theft. The first offense is considered a misdemeanor;  the second offense can be charged as a felony according to Penal Code Section.

According to California Penal Code, the following are considered traits of a petty theft:

  • The taken goods as a result of a theft value up to $950 or less
  • There should not be a use of a firearm.
  • It was not stolen directly from the owner, such as in mugging.

According to California law (Penal Code §487) these are, but not limited to,  the following goods which would not be considered petty theft:

  1. Car
  2. Horse or other farm animals
  3. Firearms

It is very important for qualification of the offense to estimate the value of the stolen good or goods. The main tool in order to determine the price is the “fair market value.” According to “fair market value” the price of the good is estimated based on reasonable price which can be paid for the good in the open market at the determined time and place where it was stolen. Theft of property from the person is grand theft, no matter how much the property is worth. Theft is from the person if the property taken was in the clothing of, on the body of, or in a container held or carried by, that person.[1]

In most cases, petty theft is considered to be a misdemeanor.

If the taken goods as a result of a theft value up to $50 or less and that is the first time a person has been prosecuted for a theft crime, it is possible that your attorney convinced the prosecutor to qualify your actions as an infraction. In this case, the penalty faced will be a maximum $250 fine.

Pursuant to California Penal Code 666 PC(“Petty Theft with a Prior”) the punishment for a petty theft can be increased, if

  • A person has been convicted;
  • And served certain time for theft crimes( petty theft, grand theft, grand theft auto, burglary, carjacking, robbery and felony receiving stolen property);
  • A person has been sentenced 3 or more for this crimes or there is one conviction from the list above and either a prior sentence for sex crime and a person is registered as a sex offender under Penal Code 290PC or this person a previous conviction for a so-called “serious” felony under Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC or violent felony under Penal Code 667.5(c).

Thus, a petty theft may be either a felony or a misdemeanor, that is to say it is a “wobbler”. The incrimination depends on the criminal history of the person as well as objective circumstances of the offense.

Depending on whether it is misdemeanor or a felony the potential penalties will be following:

Regular Theft Petty Theft with a Prior
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 3 years of informal probation
  • Up to 6 months in county jail
  • a $1000 fine
  • or up to 6 months in county jail and a $1000 fine
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • Felony
  • Sentence of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in California state prison

It is also crucial to note that stealing may also be considered as a crime of moral turpitude, which subjects offenders to deportation.

Have you or a loved one been charged with a petty theft in California? The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. Each defense will be developed upon the facts of your individual case. Do not hesitate to contact us. You will get your legal assistance as soon as you contact us. We handle every aspect of your case, from the first step to the very last court hearing.

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

[1] Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 1801

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