Your case’ outcome heavily relies on understanding the theft crime, stages of the case, and your rights. Read on to discover more:
What’s the Legal Definition of a Theft Crime in San Diego California
A theft crime is taking another person’s property with the intent to deprive them of their ownership permanently. According to the law, different theft crimes have different levels and charges. A theft crime can either be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
The level of punishment depends on how severe the specific charges are. For instance, taking a low-value item from a shop will bring lesser penalties than taking another person’s vehicle. When the accused use force or weapons while committing the theft crime, the penalties will become more severe.
If you or your loved one faces a theft accusation, it’s crucial to understand the possible penalties and develop solid defense strategies. Let our competent lawyers hold your hand through all these processes and defend you.
What is the Definition of Property According to Law?
Property is anything that a person owns. It may be movable or immovable items, documents, and information that a person or business owns rightfully. Here are a few examples of property that someone can take away unlawfully:
- Immovable items like land and things attached to it
- Moveable items such as cash, jewelry, computer, and vehicle.
- Documents such as bonds and certificates
- Information like a company’s trade secrets and an individual’s identifying data
- Personal services like food services at a restaurant
What are Common Theft Crimes and their Penalties in San Diego, California?
Californian theft-related statutes cover several different types of offenses. Read on to discover some of these criminal misconducts:
1. Petty Theft
Under California Penal Code 484 and 488, petty theft involves taking items, labor, or money valued at $950 or less. It includes:
- Theft by trick, and
- False pretenses
Petty theft is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a county jail term of 6 months and a fine of up to $1,000. If the stolen items’ value is $50 or less, and you have no prior theft convictions, our theft crime lawyers can negotiate with the court to drop the charges to an infraction. For this infraction, the fine will not exceed $250.
Shoplifting charges are now covered in a new California Penal Code section. Under Penal Code 459.5, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime that involves stealing a store’s merchandise worth $950 or less. But if you enter the store after business hours intending to commit theft, the crime becomes commercial burglary.
A first offense shoplifting is punishable by a maximum of six months in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. You may also get up to three years’ probation.
If a teen is convicted of being a shoplifter, the same penalties and punishments will apply. One of the long-term repercussions is the inability to attend college, especially if the teen has a negative criminal record.
3. Grand Theft
The California Penal Code 487 affirms that grand theft involves taking items, labor, or money worth more than $950. Grand theft may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances surrounding it. Thus, it’s considered a “wobbler” offense.
The punishments for this crime are:
- Felony: Between sixteen months to three years in county jail and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
- Misdemeanor: Up to one year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000
In certain circumstances, a felony grand theft conviction could bring a state prison sentence.
Has the court charged you with a felony grand theft? It doesn’t necessarily mean a conviction. Stay calm and contact our theft crime lawyers. We may negotiate lesser charges and penalties on your behalf.
4. Grand Theft of a Firearm
Under California Penal Code 487(d)(2), theft of a firearm can attract charges. Often, it’s charged as a felony. The punishment includes imprisonment in a California state prison for 16 months to three years.
5. Grand Theft Auto Crime
If you take a vehicle valued above $950 without the owner’s consent, you could face charges under California Penal Code 487(d)(1).
While this crime is a wobbler, it’s often charged as a felony. A conviction attracts exact charges like those for grand theft.
According to California Penal Code 459, burglary involves entering a commercial premise or building with the intent of stealing property.
- 1st-degree residential burglary is among the “Three Strikes” state law offenses. It’s punishable by a term of 2-6 years in state prison.
- 2nd-degree commercial burglary is a wobbler crime that can entail stealing items (from a retail outlet) worth more than $950 or when the store has closed for the day (e.g. at night). This crime could pass as a felony and earn you between sixteen months to three years in county jail.
7. Receiving Stolen Property
Do you know that receiving stolen property can attract serious consequences? The California Penal Code 496 affirms that concealing, buying, or selling a stolen property (knowingly) constitute a theft crime. The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
It’s a misdemeanor if the stolen property’s value doesn’t exceed $950. Punishment includes a maximum of one year in county jail.
Is the property’s value more than $950? Then the theft crime is considered a wobbler. If charged as a felony, you could spend between 16 months to three years in prison.
California Penal Code 211 states that robbery is taking a person’s personal property using force or fear. It’s one of those crimes that fall under the state’s “Three-Strikes” law and is usually charged as a felony because of the risk of violence to innocent individuals.
When the robbery involves weapons or leads to injury to another person, the prison term may be extended.
- 1st-degree robbery includes robbing occupants of a vehicle, inhabited structures, or an ATM user. A conviction carries a prison sentence of 3-9 years in a California state prison.
- 2nd-degree robbery charges are those which don’t meet the requirements of 1st-degree robbery. You could face 2-5 years in prison.
Who Should I Call First When Accused of a Theft Crime?
When accused of theft, most people panic and call the police before speaking to a lawyer. They think that doing so will give them a chance to prove their innocence.
But that’s a grave mistake. The arresting police officers are not your friends.
Therefore, avoid falling for that police officer’s invitation for a “friendly chat.” It may be bait to lure you into incriminating yourself.
Your best bet is to call us. We will be your trustworthy friends throughout the process.
What are the Stages of Theft Cases?
Have you been charged with or accused of stealing? Let Superior Law Center lawyers help you lessen the stress of going through all the stages of your case:
The prosecutor will work tirelessly to build a theft case against you. Let our attorneys step in to carry out an independent investigation. This investigation will aim at:
- Verifying and validating the police officers’ investigation: Our competent lawyers will review the investigation conducted by the law enforcers. They’ll also re-interview witnesses and thoroughly assess the gathered evidence to identify any weak point in their case.
- Finding new evidence and witnesses: The attorneys can identify new evidences and witnesses after a thorough and independent investigation. These new details can contradict the prosecution’s case or discredit their witnesses.
2. Defense Strategies
Our lawyers can use several defenses to defend your case. They’ll evaluate and develop these strategies based on their thorough investigations:
- Lack of intent: This strategy can be successful if you didn’t take a person’s property intentionally.
- Mistake of fact: In this defense strategy, we can prove that the property was not actually stolen, contrary to the accuser’s thinking.
- A claim of right: You believe you had a right to the items in question
- Age: While a minor may still be charged, this defense strategy may lessen the penalty.
- Duress: Did someone coerce you (using threats or actual violence) to steal? Coercion can be a successful strategy here.
- Intoxication: If you didn’t understand your actions’ nature due to intoxication, we have a defense here.
3. Court Appearances
After developing a water-tight defense strategy, our lawyers will discuss your theft case with the prosecutor at your first court appearance. The prosecution will share with the lawyers the police investigations and offer plea bargaining.
4. Plea bargaining
Often, the prosecutor will offer you a reduced sentencing on the contingency that you plead guilty before the trial. Sounds appealing, right?
The truth is that these offers may not be great. It would be best to have a competent lawyer go through the “fine prints” before deciding the next step.
You should be aware that the prosecutor doesn’t really care about you. They may offer an “enticing deal” if they sense that their evidences may fail to hold water.
Once you plead guilty, overturning the deal is almost impossible. So be careful.
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We also offer little or no money down, and offer affordable payment plans to those who need help. At Superior Law Center, our experienced San Diego trial lawyer will use the best defense strategies possible to protect your innocence and your future! ALL of your rights will be protected immediately, and we will NOT stop until we have secured your freedom and gotten the BEST possible outcome for you or your loved ones.
Often times, we can stop police investigations before you EVER get charged with a crime. (If you have NOT been formally charged, read more about pre-file investigations.)