Owing to the many years in practice, LA Criminal Defense Attorney has made its mark in the legal field as one of the best, if not the finestcriminal defense law firms in the state of California. Our legal defense team consists of lawyers who are very conversant with the California criminal laws and can handle any type of grand theft cases forour clients. The possible outcomes to such criminal cases involve our attorneys arguing in your defense for lesser charges or better yet, a total dismissal.
What is Theft in Legal Terms?
Theword theft as generally used in our day to day lives may refer to the illegal act where a particularindividual takes a second individual’s personal property without their permission. The term is also used loosely for some offenses against property including; robbery, fraud, shoplifting, burglary, as well as misappropriation of funds.
In legal terminology, theft is described as the bodily act ofillegally taking,stealing, carrying, leading, or forcing out the personal belongings of another, without theirapproval,and with the aim ofdispossessingthe said owner of them, temporarily or permanently. The supposed thief does not need to retain the stolen belongings for themselves for it to be termed as theft. If they committed the offense with an aimto sell, get rid of, or damage the stolen property, it is still considered theft.
What is Grand Theft in Accordance with the California Statute?
Under Civil Code 487 PC in California law, grand theft is explained as theft that is carried out when the cash, services rendered, personal possessions or the real estate stolen, is valued over nine hundred and fifty ($950) dollars, except as stipulated in instances of a subdivision.
When it comes to the crime of grand theft, the state of California bases the definition on some key aspects known as elements of the offense. This means that for a prosecutor to find you guilty of grand theft in California, they should prove beyond any reasonable doubt every single element of the said offense. These elements, however, will allbe subject tothe type of grand theft you are being indicted for.
Different Types of Grand Theft
There is more than a single way in which you could engage in the crime of grand theft as per the California law. When standing trial forgrand theft, the featuresof the offensethat are going to be considered will depend on the type of grand theft that you are being accusedof. Below are the different types of grand theft as detailedby the California law.
- Grand theft throughfalse pretense
Under California’s Civil Code 532 PC, any person who deliberatelyby any dishonest or deceitfuldepiction or pretense defrauds another person of cash, laboror belongingsis subject to punishment in accordance with the property or money stolen.
That is to say, you could be found guilty of grand theft through false pretense if:
- You deliberately misguided a given person by mentioning to them something that was not true.
- You put on an act with the ultimate goal of inducing the individual to allow youownership of their belongings.
- The said person trusted your dishonest act and let you haverights of possession to their belongings.
A crime could be termed as theft through false pretense given that; you had intentions of cheating a second person, and either provided them with incorrect information, withheld details that you are obligated to give out, or entered into an agreement which you had no intentions of honoring.
It is, however, worth noting thatthe accuser must have let you have their possessions since they had confidence in you. This is necessary if you are to be convicted of grand theft through false pretense.Nevertheless, false pretense needs not to be the only reason as to why the said accuser gave you their possessions, but an important one among others.
What a Prosecutor Needs to Prove for a Grand Theft through False Pretense Conviction
The prosecuting attorneywill need to establish several relevant detailstoattain a conviction on the charges pressed. And to show that you, in fact, made false pretenses, they will need either:
- A deceitful document or a false token as they are popularly known.
- A document that outlines the dishonest pretenses and bearing either your writing or signature.
- Statements from at least two (2) witnesses.
- Statement from a single witness in addition to other evidence.
There have been several cases in the past where two individuals get into a contract that entails belongings switching ownership, only for the original owner to change their mind and accuse the second individual of trying to cheat them by making false pretenses.Therefore, as a measure to try and curb such behavior, a single person’s testimony alone will not suffice for a suspect to be convicted.
Grand theft throughlarceny
This specific charge applies to tangible possessions. You could be accused of theft through larceny in California in the event that you made away with someone else’s physical belongings.
In legal terms, larceny could best be described as the act where you presumed ownership of possessions belonging to another person, and without their proper consent to do so. In doing so, you had intended to strip the said owner of their belongings forever, take away their possessions for a considerable amount of time to keep them from enjoying the said possessions, and you moved their possessions and kept them to yourself for a considerable amount of time.
In some cases, simple theftcould lead to charges of grand theft through larceny, simply because the item or items stolen were valued at over nine hundred and fifty ($950) dollars.
Grand theft throughtrickery
The California law, under Civil Code 484 stipulates that in order for you to be convicted for the crime of grand theft through trickery, the prosecution needs to demonstrate that:
- You acquired property which you very well knew was owned by another person,
- The primaryowner of the said property gave into your request of having their property because you used dishonesty,
- On acquiring the property, your aim was to disposethe said owner of it permanently or for a lengthy periodin order to denythe said owner of thepleasureof using or enjoying their property,
- You held the property in question for any extentof time, and
- The primary owner had no intentions of handing over the possession of their property to you.
As similar as this crime might sound like grand theft through false pretense, the two are not to be confused. In the case of grand theft through false pretense, the owner of the belongingsmust give you possession as well as ownership of their property. Grand theft through trickery, on the other hand, requires the owner of the property togive over possession to you without necessarily changing ownership of the property.
Grand theft through embezzlement
The state of California, under Civil Code 484 continues to define the offense of grand theft through embezzlement in sub-section 503. Grand theft by embezzlement is legally defined as the act where you were put in charge of someone else’s property since they trusted you. You went behind the said owners back and dishonestly converted their property for your very own gain.All your actions must have been intended at depriving the owner of their property’s use.
You still could be accused of grand theft through embezzlement regardless of whether you meant to ultimately return the owner’s belongings.
If accused of grand theft in a California court, it does not matter which of the four (4) types discussed above you violated. If you indeed did take the property of some other person by any of those ways, the jury is bound to agree that you did take part in grand theft. At the same time, the said jury is required to unanimously decide if you committedgrand theft or petty theft. Whichever decision they reach will determine the courts ruling.
Penalties for Grand Theft in the State California
In normal circumstances, the offenseof grand theft stands to be charged as a wobbler as per Civil Code 487 PC in California. This translates to the offense being charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecuting attorney will usually decide on how to charge your casebased upon the circumstances surrounding your case as well as your criminal background.
Presuming that you were found guilty of grand theft as a misdemeanor, a maximum of twelve (12) months in the county jail is what you would be facing.
A felony verdict by the court, on the other hand,will mean you will be penalized with felony probation after serving a twelve (12) month sentence at the county jail, or sixteen months (16), twenty-four (24) months, or three years (3) in the state penitentiary.
The punitive measures discussed above, however, do not apply to firearm charges. In California, grand theft firearmis charged as a totally independent offense when it comes to grand theft.
Presuming that you arefound guilty of committing grand theft firearm in the state of California, the crime is charged as a felony. It is totally out of the question for this offense to be treated as a misdemeanor.
The violation of grand theft firearm could attract apossibleconviction of sixteenmonths (16), twenty-fourmonths (24) or even up to three(3) yearsin the state prison.In addition, the California law regards the said offense as a grave felony hence counting as a strike under the three strikes law.
What’s more, the punitive measures to be taken against youif you stole high valued possessions could involve an extraand sequentialterm in prison.The possible ruling in such cases could be an added:
- Twelve (12) months if the stolen property was valued at over sixty-five thousand ($65,000) dollars.
- Twenty-four (24) months if the stolen property was valued at over two hundred thousand ($200,000) dollars.
- Three years (3) if the stolen property was valued at over one million three hundred thousand ($1,300,000) dollars and,
- Fouryears (4) if the stolen property was valued at over three million two hundred thousand ($3,200,000) dollars.
Suppose that you perpetrated the offense of grand theftfollowing a common strategyfor various possessions, the court will convict you in accordance with the total sum of the said stolen possessions.If on the other hand you were accused of committing multiple offenses of grand theft but you committed them in different circumstances or schemes, you could be indicted for multiple counts of grand theft.
Common Legal Defenses for Grand Theft Charges
A competent California criminal defense attorney could present severallegal defenses on your behalf during your court hearing on grand theft charges. They will, however, depend on the circumstances surrounding your case. Some of these legal defenses include:
Absence of Intentions
A grand theft accusation against you is automatically invalidated by the fact that you did not intend to steal.Supposing that the prosecuting attorney fails to present sufficient evidence to show your intent for committinggrand theft, you could walk away from your charges as an innocent person.
Under no circumstances would you be convicted for the crime of grand theft in the event that the legal owner of the property agreed to you possessing it.If the property was given to you for use under specific guidelines, you need to stick by them. By violating the said guidelines and using the property for different reasons, this defense might not work in your favor.
It is not unheard of, where one individual accusesanother falsely with the aim of either revenge or self-gain. You might be involved in a business deal that goes sour and the property owner accuses you of grand theft. This would be a valid defense in such a situation.
Claim of right
In the event that you genuinely and rationally believed that you were the rightful holder of the property, the court has no option but to acquit you of the grand theft charges.This plea will not be relevant if you tried to hide your actions in that period or later on after it was detected.The same case will apply if any illegal property was involved.
Related Offenses to Grand Theft
In California, there are several offenses that you could be indicted with alongside or instead of grand theft. Some of them include:
Civil Code 487 (d)(1) PC, grand theft auto.
In accordance with the California statute, if the possession stolen, is a vehicle, then the offense is categorically labeled as grand theft auto. Just as is the case for grand theft firearm, the state of California treats the charges of grand theft auto as a felony. However, this offense has been on the decline for the past eighteen (18) years. This is in accordance with information provided by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Civil Code 484 and 488 PC, petty theft.
Petty theft in California is explained as theft that is carried out when the cash or theproperty stolen is valued under nine hundred and fifty dollars($950). This is the major difference between grand theft. You might be convicted for petty theft when you stole someone else’s property which value did not surpass nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950).
In California, the offense of petty theft normally is charged as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you face a maximum term of six months (6) in thecounty jail, legal fees not exceeding one thousand ($1,000) dollars, or both.
Civil Code 666 PC, petty theft with a prior.
Given that you committed the crime of petty theft in your past and were convicted, a future petty theft on your record could result in significantly steeper punitive measures. This crime could also be treated as a wobbler if you were found guiltyof theft and a past conviction of a graver violent crime, or if you were in the past convicted for the crime of theft from a senior citizen. All this plus a new petty theft conviction, and the offense could now be charged like a felony.
Civil Code 459 PC, burglary, auto burglary, and Civil Code 464 PC, burglary with explosives.
Any person who goes into any house, outhouse or any other constructionwith the aim to perpetrate grand theft or any otheroffense, is guilty of burglary.Auto burglary, on the other hand, involves you entering any vehicle as defined in the California vehicle code sub-sectionswith the aim to carry out theft or any felony, instead of a building.
You could face additional charges of burglary and perhaps attempted grand theft if you went into a building with the aim to carry out theft once inside. This is regardless if you succeed in your act or not.
Burglary, in general, is considered a felony in the state of California. If convicted, you face a jail term not exceeding three years (3), and a maximum of six years (6) in cases where you committed theft in an occupied building.
In addition, if after taking part in a burglary, the defendant, beingyou in this case, proceeds to make attempts at opening a safe or safety deposit using explosives or a blow torch of any kind, you violate Civil Code 464 PC, burglary with explosives. This, in turn, attracts a penalty of up to seven years (7) in the county jail.
Civil Code 211, robbery.
In the California statute, robbery is defined as the act of taking another person’s private propertycontrary to their will and using threats ofterror at the same time. It should therefore not come as a surprise if you face both charges of robbery and grand theft in the event that you used threats of terror when you stole property valued at over nine hundred and fifty ($950) dollars.
The crime of robbery is at all times treated as a felony in California. You face a state prison sentence ranging from two years (2), all the way to six years (6).The Three Strikes Law of California includes robbery, which means you could be looking at severe penalties if this is your third strike already.
Civil Code 470 PC, forgery.
You commit the offense of forgery in California when you; sign another person’s name without them authorizing you, forge someone’semblem or theirwriting, falsify or alter any legal papers or when you present altered or forged papers relating to cash or other possessionsas the original documents.
In the event that you are indicted for grand theft either bytrickery,embezzlement or false pretenses, you could as well be facing forgery accusations. This applies to such cases where you might have carried out grand theft through embezzlement by forging your boss’s signature on a check exceeding nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950).
In California, forgery is treated as a wobbler offense. If found guilty of forgery as a misdemeanor, you face a maximum jail term of twelve months (12), and up to three years (3) in the case of a felony. If the total sum of the possessions stolen through forgery adds up to or is less than nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950), the offense is tried as a misdemeanor, warranting a maximum of twelve months (12) in the county jail. This applies only if you have no preexisting violent felony background.
Civil Code 424 PC,embezzlement of public resources.
In California, you could be found in violation of this law if you were allocated public funds and instead you used them for your own gain, or gave them out inappropriately and without the proper consent. Civil workers are usually the individuals accused of such crimes, or basically any other individual with direct access to government resources.
In as much as embezzlement of public resourcesshares similar characteristics with grand theft through embezzlement, the two are not to be confused.Embezzlement of public resources carries with it much graver penalties. It is at all times treated as a felony, meaning that if convicted, you face a prison term ranging from two (2) to four (4) years in a state prison.