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Grand Theft & Petty Theft Offenses

In California, “grand theft” is broadly defined as the unlawful taking of property belonging to someone else where the value of the property is greater than $950. In most cases, the crime of grand theft is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the specific circumstances involved in each case. The decision to file felony versus misdemeanor charges depends largely on three things: (1) the egregiousness of the alleged conduct involved; (2) the extent of the harm suffered by the alleged victim, if any; and (3) the alleged perpetrator’s prior criminal history, if any. These same three factors will also have a significant impact on what the precise criminal penalties will be in each case.

Grand theft cases are typically filed by prosecuting agencies as violations of Penal Code section 487. If filed as a felony charge, grand theft carries a maximum possible sentence of up to three years in the county jail, pursuant to Penal Code section 1170 subdivision (h). If the prosecution elects to file a misdemeanor charge, or the value of the items taken is less than $950, the crime will be treated as misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, plus court costs. Enhanced penalties and punishments are available in grand theft cases where the value of the property taken was extremely high, in cases where multiple acts of grand theft are separately charged, and in cases where a firearm is the subject of the theft.

Grand theft of a firearm is always filed as a felony in California and a conviction for this charge carries a maximum possible sentence of three years in the state prison. It is important to note that a felony conviction for grand theft of a firearm also qualifies as a strike offense pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. As such, a felony conviction for this offense could have the collateral consequence of doubling the sentence for any felony convictions that may occur in the future. This is true even if probation is granted, a petition is later filed to have the underlying robbery conviction expunged pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4, et seq., and that request is granted by the court. Grand theft of a firearm is a strike offense, so even if it is later expunged, it will still count as a strike for purposes of enhanced punishment in the future.

Grand theft of an automobile is almost always filed as a felony in California under Penal Code section 487 subdivision (d), subsection (1), although it is technically a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the specific circumstances involved in each case. A felony conviction for grand theft of an automobile carries a maximum possible sentence of three years in the county jail pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h) and/or a fine of up to $10,000, plus court costs. An additional, consecutive sentence of one year may be imposed in situations where the vehicle taken is worth more than $65,000.

Petty theft is closely related to grand theft and is generally filed by prosecuting agencies as a violation of Penal Code section 488. Petty theft is also commonly referred to as “shoplifting.” Petty theft charges apply in cases where the value of the item(s) taken is $950 or less. Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense and punishable a maximum possible sentence of six month in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, plus court costs. However, enhanced penalties and punishments are available in cases where a person has suffered a prior theft-related criminal conviction(s) and has also been convicted of certain serious and/or violent felony offenses pursuant to Penal Code section 666.

You absolutely cannot afford to underestimate the widespread implications that this type of conviction could have in your life and for your future. First and foremost, both grand theft and petty theft are considered crimes of moral turpitude. This means that if convicted, you may also face adverse collateral consequences related to your immigration status, as well as any professional licenses you may be required to have in order to maintain your employment. Even if you are not required to maintain a professional license in order to earn your livelihood, it is common in today’s world for reputable employers to run background checks on individuals who work for them, and those they are considering hiring. As such, even a misdemeanor criminal conviction for a theft related offense could impact your ability to maintain your current employment and your ability to obtain more lucrative employment opportunities in the future.

At the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC, we understand that mistakes happen, and we firmly believe everyone is entitled to vigorous, competent and compassionate legal representation. We also understand that the criminal process can be daunting and confusing. In many cases, there are often huge discrepancies between what people think the law is, what they think the law should be, and the reality of what the law truly is. That’s why we are committed to keeping you fully informed throughout the legal process as we work to strategically develop and prepare your defense, with a keen eye toward achieving the most favorable outcome possible for you.

Remember that the legal issues relevant to your case are best identified and addressed early on by a qualified Murrieta defense lawyer. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your case, it is imperative that you act swiftly and smartly by hiring an experienced, local attorney who is familiar with the rules, common practices and procedures, and individual prosecutors and judges in the jurisdiction where you are facing criminal charges. As a former prosecutor at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, California for the better part of fifteen years, Ms. Baldwin has worked hard to establish her reputation as a trusted, knowledgeable and effective advocate and looks forward to the privilege of putting her skills and experience to work of you.

If you have already been charged or anticipate being charged with grand theft or petty theft in the Murrieta area, contact your Murrieta criminal defense lawyer at the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC for your free, confidential case consultation now. Your future and your freedom deserve to be taken seriously by an experienced attorney who is committed to quality representation and compassionate advocacy, every step of the way.