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Grand Theft

 Grand Theft Penal Code 487 PC

The state of California defines theft under Penal Code 484 as illegally taking another person’s property. If the value of the stolen property is worth more than $950, under the law as defined by PC 487, the theft is considered to be grand theft.

Many different actions can be considered as theft of property. The actual physical removal of an item is considered to be larceny. Other types of theft, including but not limited to stealing or embezzling money, “borrowing” an item and failing to return it, and tricking or deceiving someone into giving you their property under false pretenses, are all considered to fall under theft and can all also charged as grand theft in cases where the cumulative value exceeds $950.

Theft is typically a misdemeanor, but grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, making it a wobbler in the state of California. The prosecution may either charge with you a misdemeanor or a felony on a situational basis that varies from case to case. A misdemeanor theft or grand theft charge carries a maximum sentencing of up to a year in county jail. To contrast, a felony account of grand theft carries a maximum of three years and the jail sentence may be carried out in either a county or possibly a state facility depending on the severity of the charge. A state prison sentence will typically be more impactful for your record long term.

Fortunately, there are many legal defenses that criminal attorneys such as Long Beach Criminal Attorney, can use to help you in your case. Perhaps the theft was intentional or there is a dispute on the true ownership of the property. Perhaps there was some sort of miscommunication or perhaps the accusation was simply false. All of these defenses are valid in a court of law, and an expert attorney such as Long Beach Criminal Attorney will be able to help you formulate a defense for your case specifically.

If you are in Long Beach, California or Torrance, California, you may want to consult with Long Beach Criminal Attorney. In this article will help you to interpret the legal code and give you a better idea of what you or someone close to you may be facing with theft or grand theft charges.

Understanding PC 484-488 - Petty Theft vs Grand Theft

Within the state of California, theft is constituted by stealing, taking, carrying, leading, or driving away another person’s property without their consent. As previously mentioned, this includes theft by deceiving another individual or “borrowing” an item or money under false pretenses, as well as hiring employees and lying about pay, entering into a contract and failing to deliver promised goods or services, or falsifying information or intent during a leasing agreement.

Penal Code 486 differentiates between the two types of theft. Grand theft is defined by the penal code as any theft where the amount stolen exceeds $950. Petty theft is defined as all other theft. The monetary value is determined using the average market value of the stolen goods or services as a reference and is determined by the court.

A few additional exceptions are made to the rule indicating that grand theft consists of theft of items that are cumulatively valued at $950 or more. Many plant products have an exception stating that values of over $250 constitute grand theft. Additionally, the Penal Code states that multiple thefts totaling $950 across a twelve-month period will constitute grand theft.

Penalties for Grand Theft

Since grand theft is considered to be a wobbler under the California Penal Code, you could be hit by a grand theft charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony based on the discretion of the prosecutor. The only exception to this rule is the grand theft of a firearm, which is always considered to be a felony. A grand theft misdemeanor sentence can be up to one year in county jail. A grand theft felony sentence has a maximum sentence of three years in county jail. Grand theft of a firearm can provoke a heavier sentence with a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Additionally, grand theft of a firearm constitutes a strike in cases where you are under California’s three strike law.

For grand theft of very large values, additional sentencing may be added on in addition to the base sentence. For grand theft totaling over $65,000 an additional year of sentencing may be added. An additional two years can be added in cases of grand theft of over $200,000, an additional three years for theft of $1,300,000 or more, and an additional four years for grand theft of over $3,200,000.

We will discuss the various definitions of theft under PC 484 but while considering the following forms of grand theft, it is important to note that if you are charged with more than one form of grand theft, the court does not need to agree on which form of theft you are guilty of, but rather only if you are guilty of petty or grand theft. If the jury agrees that you are guilty of theft but cannot decide if it is petty or grand theft, then the lesser of the two punishments will be administered.

Grand Theft by Larceny

Larceny is a type of theft that is defined by the theft of an actual physical item. In a court of law, the prosecuting attorney must demonstrate several elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order for you, the defendant, to be with a larceny charge. First, the prosecution must prove that you stole property belonging to another person. Second, you did not have that person’s permission to take the item or items in question. Third, they must prove that your intent in taking the property was to keep the item permanently or that you were in possession of the item for a long enough duration to deprive the owner of a significant portion of the item’s use or enjoyment.

Defense of larceny often involves defining beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s intent to steal. If for example, an individual borrows an item and attempted to communicate with the owner that the item was borrowed, a valid defense may involve proof of communication and negligence of the owner to view or comprehend said communication. Another example of a valid defense may be that the owner initially expressed consent, allowing the defendant to take the property in question, and then later changed his or her mind in an unreasonable circumstance. For example, if Bobby allows Sue to borrow his laptop while they were dating, and then Bobby and Sue break up, Sue may face larceny charges if she fails to return the laptop after a period of time. However, the defense may postulate the Bobby allowed Sue to borrow his laptop and did not communicate with a reasonable expectation that he wanted his laptop back.

Grand Theft by Embezzlement

When most people think of embezzlement, they imagine a crooked accountant taking money by altering financial records or cooking the books. In fact, under California Penal Code 484, you may face a grand theft embezzlement charge for many other reasons that may surprise you. Generally speaking, embezzlement involves the owner of a property, item, or funds, entrusting care to the defendant and the defendant misusing or taking the property.

To be charged with embezzlement, the prosecution needs to prove several elements. First, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were trusted with the property. Second, the prosecution must demonstrate that you took or used the property in a way that the owner did not entrust you with or intend. Third, by use or removal of property, you prevented the owner from using that property whether it be temporarily or permanently. As a result, embezzlement is somewhat of a difficult offense because you may have committed embezzlement without the express intent of committing theft.

For example, Cameron decides to park his very expensive and very rare vintage Ferrari in a valet garage. The vehicle is entrusted into the care of the valet but the valet takes the car for a joy ride and technically devalues the vehicle by driving it in ways and in places that Cameron did not intend. When Cameron returns, he finds that the car is not in the same condition that he entrusted to the valet and is very upset. In this instance, the valet may find that Cameron can rightfully charge him with embezzlement, and even grand theft based on the loss of value to a car due to his misuse. Although the valet probably knew that his use of the car was not legal, he may not have expected to be charged with grand theft by embezzlement for his joy ride.

Grand Theft by False Pretense Under PC 532

Grand theft by false pretense can be a difficult or complicated offense to understand. If you are charged with grand theft by false pretense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you lied in order for the original owner of an item to allow you to gain possession of said item. The prosecution must demonstrate several elements. First, your deception was knowing and intentional. Under the law, false pretense constitutes that you purposely led another astray by misinformation or falsehood. In addition, the prosecution must show that the misinformation or falsehood led to the owner allowing you to take their property and that you actually took the property in question into your possession.

The idea of false pretense in itself is complicated and it is possible to make a false pretense under the legal definition of the phrase in a number of different ways. False pretense constitutes two facets. First is intent. The pretense must be knowingly false. Second, the actual pretense can be made in a number of ways; you can lie outright by making a false statement; you can claim something is true without believing it yourself; you can commit false pretense by omission, by not informing the owner of information that you should provide; you can make a false pretense.

In a court of law, false pretense is particularly difficult to prove without some kind of hard evidence documenting the false pretense. Otherwise, the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt because the only evidence is from the word of the prosecution and the defendant. Unless there is a written document containing your false pretense or the testimony of more than one other individual who was present to bear witness to your false pretense or the combination of written proof and verbal testimony, then the prosecution has no evidence and has an invalid argument. The reason for this particular set of rules governing false pretense is to prevent possible abuse of the law by claiming false pretense in an otherwise legal transaction.

Grand Theft by Trick

Very similar to theft by false pretense is theft by trick. Theft by trick is technically a form of theft by false pretense with a few key differences. First, in the case of theft by false pretense, the defendant has lied or made a false claim in order to convince the original owner to give you ownership of the property to the defendant. In a theft by trick case, the original owner never intended to give full ownership of the property to the defendant and only temporary possession.

As an example, if Sharon tells Josh she wants to buy his car and then purposely does not make payments, she might be found guilty of a grand theft charge utilizing false pretense. If she instead asks Josh to borrow his car and then takes the car and never returns it, taking ownership of the vehicle, she may instead be found guilty of a grand theft charge using theft by trick.

Changes to PC 484 - Proposition 47

Prior to November 2014, theft was always considered to be grand theft if it involved theft of a firearm, vehicle, certain livestock, or if the property was removed off a person. Proposition 47 changed the law to permit for the special conditions mentioned above to be charged as a petty theft crime if the value of the property meets the criteria of being valued under $950. However, if the defendant has a prior record with certain felonies or a sex-related offense, then theft of these items will be considered grand theft even if the value of the property stolen is less than $950.

Find a Grand Theft Attorney Near Me

If you or someone you know is being charged with grand theft, it is important you contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if you are generally aware of the consequences you may be facing, every case is different and only an experienced lawyer will be able to tell you if you may have a particular defense against grand theft. If you are in Long Beach, California or Torrance, California, contact Long Beach Criminal Attorney at 562-308-7807 for a consultation today.