What Actions Constitute Petty Theft?

“Theft” is generally regarded as the intentional and unlawful taking of a separate party’s property. Per California Penal Code Section 484(a) and California Penal Code Section 488 PC, a person can be charged with petty theft if their crime meets the following criteria: the stolen property is valued at $950 or less; the property wasn’t removed from the victim during a mugging or robbery; the stolen item isn’t a gun or motor vehicle.

In California, the following theft offenses can be charged under the petty theft statute:

  • Theft by larceny:
    • Intentionally taking possession of someone else’s property without their consent
    • Keeping the property permanently or for an extended period of time
  • Theft by trick
    • Tricking the victim into handing over their property (but not ownership)
  • Theft by false pretense:
    • Deceiving a property owner via false representation or pretense
    • Persuading the owner to hand over ownership of the property
  • Theft by embezzlement
    • Stealing property or assets that have been entrusted to the offending party

In 2014, California residents voted on an initiative called Proposition 47, or the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Imitative.” Due to Prop 47, nonviolent theft crimes – including petty theft – have been downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors. So long as the value of the property remains under $950, an offender may be able to avoid jail time. However, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your citation or forgo legal representation. A misdemeanor conviction can still lead to jail time, probation, a $1,000 fine, and a life-changing criminal record. Plus, pursuant to Penal Code Section 666, you can face increased penalties if you have prior theft convictions.

Possible petty theft defense options include:

  • The defendant had no intention of stealing the item in question
  • The defendant had the owner’s consent
  • The defendant mistakenly believed they owned the item
  • The defendant does own the item
  • The defendant was falsely accused

Learn More by Scheduling a Consultation

If you or a loved requires legal representation, contact the Temecula theft crime lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. Our legal team can investigate your case, compile evidence, and develop a litigation strategy that proves you didn’t intend to commit the crime.

Call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 506-6654 to schedule a consultation.


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