Charged with Grand Theft in California? What You Need to Know

October 10, 2016

If you or a loved one is facing grand theft criminal charges, you could be facing serious penalties, including jail time.


Under California law, the crime of theft is defined as the unlawful taking of someone else’s property. When the allegedly stolen property has an estimated value in excess of nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), then the charge is escalated to “grand theft,” in accordance with California Penal Code 487. It is a fairly arbitrary distinction. For example, if you allegedly shop lift a piece of jewelry from Zale’s valued at $1,000, you are looking at grand theft charges, but if you allegedly shop lift a piece of jewelry from a Wal-Mart or Target valued at $900, you could be looking at a lesser charge of petty theft.


Difference Between Grand Theft and Petty Theft

The legal definition of grand theft and petty theft is almost the same. As mentioned, the only distinguishing factor is the estimated value of the items allegedly stolen. Though, you should also know that grand theft is the charge for particular items allegedly stolen, regardless of value.

Those items include the following:

● Automobile;
● Firearm;
● Property taken directly off the owner (e.g., a person’s wrist watch or necklace)

Grand theft charges will be filed regardless of value if you have a prior sex offense conviction or a felony conviction for murder, rape, or child molestation.


Penalties for a Grand Theft Conviction

Grand theft is considered a “wobbler” offense which means the prosecutor may choose to charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor and convicted, you could be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail. If, on the other hand, you are charged with a felony and convicted, you could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison.

Given the discretion afforded to prosecutors for wobbler offenses, this provides an opportunity for your Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer to negotiate on your behalf to possibly have the charges reduced to a misdemeanor. If you have no prior criminal record, this may be an option to consider, but it depends on the facts of your case and the evidence in possession of the prosecutor.


How to Fight Grand Theft Charges

As you can see, grand theft charges carry serious penalties that could result in the loss of your personal freedom for years. This is why you should seek the counsel of an experienced and aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options. It may be possible to get the grand theft charges dismissed or convince a jury to exonerate you of the charges by using important legal defenses. Such as:

● No Intent: Grand theft charges requires the prosecutor to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that actually intended to commit theft. Therefore, if we can establish that you did not intend to steal, you can fight the grand theft charge.
● Reclaiming Your Property: If you were attempting to retrieve property that rightfully belongs to you, then you were not committing grand theft. Again, the law requires a showing that you intended to steal from a third party.
● Wrongly Accused: Unfortunately, mistaken identity is quite common, especially in a situation where the real perpetrator’s face was covered by a mask or it was dark inside the home or business. Your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can highlight the fact that no one could affirmatively identify you as the perpetrator. If you can prove you were elsewhere at the time, that makes your defense even stronger.


Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Grand Theft Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

The Law Office of Peter Berlin is comprised of attorneys with many years of experience representing individuals charged with grand theft crimes and other criminal offenses. We believe no two cases are alike, which is why we spend extensive one-on-one personal time discussing the case with you so that we may better tailor a litigation strategy to fit your case. Contact our office today to learn more, (310) 289-5418.