California law makes a big distinction between petty theft and grand theft. The other term for theft is “larceny”, which can be used as petty larceny and grand larceny.

Two categories of theft differ in:

  • legal definition;
  • severity;
  • value of property taken;
  • type of property taken;
  • punishment.
WHAT IS PETTY THEFT AND GRAND THEFT?

Petty theft is defined as the intentional taking of property of others of an amount less than the state statutory amount. On the other, grand theft is an intentional taking of property of an amount exceeding the state statutory amount.

THEFT SEVERITY

Petty theft is the less serious offense and is considered as misdemeanor. However, if the offense is committed for the second time or more it is considered as a felony (according to Penal Code section 666- petty theft with a prior).

As compared with petty theft, grand theft is the more severe offense and is considered as a minor felony.

STATUTORY AMOUNT OR VALUE OF PROPERTY TAKEN

In case of petty theft, the amount of taken property is less than $950 according to California law (Penal code 484 and 488).

If the value of property taken is higher than $950, it refers to grand theft. There are some exceptions regarding the statutory amount of grand theft. When the amount of taken property is less than $250 and the type of taken property is related to agricultural and aquacultural products as well as to certain livestock, is also considered as grand theft.

TYPE OF PROPERTY TAKEN

In case of grand theft, there are several types of property taken from the owner, amount of which is less than $950 but are still not categorized under petty theft. They are agricultural and aquacultural products as well as certain livestock. All thefts of motor vehicle, firearm, burglary, embezzlement, robbery, carjacking as well as buying or receiving any property knowing that it has been stolen or obtained are also categorized under grand theft.

Petty theft involves shoplifting, bicycle theft and stealing any minor items of an amount of up to $950.

PUNISHMENT

Terms of punishment varies not only among states but also between individual cities. Generally, the punishment for petty theft can involve a smaller fine or a jail sentence of up to six months. For example, if you have stolen an item from a shop which value is $800, the most you can be charged with is petty theft; and if you have stolen an item which has $1,000 value, you will be charged with grand theft. Hence, the punishment for grand theft is always more severe and can include a fine of thousand dollars or a jail sentence of up to three years.