There are several charges used to prosecute acts of theft in Los Angeles. PC 484(a) and 488 cover petty theft, which is one of the less severe charges used in California. If you’ve been charged with this crime, it’s important to understand these laws.
Petty theft is a misdemeanor, and a conviction can lead to severe penalties. Although it’s a misdemeanor, this charge can still affect your future. Find out more about the risks associated with a petty theft charge from the Simmrin Law Group.
Understanding the Definition of Petty Theft
Petty theft occurs if someone indirectly steals something worth less than $950. Individuals must take items without their owner’s consent and while intending to keep the stolen goods to be convicted of petty theft.
There are other offenses that are sometimes charged similarly to petty theft in the Los Angeles court system. Individuals could be charged with:
- Theft by embezzlement
- Theft by larceny
- Theft by trick
- Theft by false pretense
- Theft by shoplifting
- Theft by fraud
Any of these charges can have serious impacts on your future. That’s why it’s critical that you have an experienced California criminal defense attorney on your side.
Petty Theft Examples in California
There is a wide range of actions that can be charged under PC 484(a) and 488. Examples of petty theft could include:
Person A enters a store and fills a cart with items to be purchased. The person also stashes a few small items in their pockets. While the person pays for most of their purchases, they walk out the door without paying for the things they have hidden.
Person B is visiting a family member during the holiday season. During the course of the visit, Person B discovers a beautiful necklace in the guest bedroom. They decide to tuck the piece of jewelry into their suitcase and take it with them when they leave.
Penalties for a Petty Theft Conviction
Individuals convicted of petty theft in Los Angeles can be charged with a misdemeanor. You may end up facing severe repercussions, including up to $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail.
Note that a first-time offender may be offered the opportunity to enter a diversion program instead of facing a criminal conviction. However, individuals with a previous conviction for petty theft may face harsher penalties.
A prior conviction can allow petty theft to be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. A felony conviction for petty theft means you could face up to 3 years in prison.
Petty Theft Charges and Possible Defenses
Beating a petty theft charge can be incredibly difficult. However, individuals who work with professional criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles will have a better chance of favorably resolving these charges. A lawyer may be able to prove:
- You were wrongly accused
- You mistakenly took something
- You were given permission to take something
You Were Wrongfully Accused
Many individuals are wrongfully accused of petty theft every year. You can get help defending yourself from wrongful charges today.
You Mistakenly Took Something
Mistakes happen. Individuals can grab something by accident and walk away with it without intending to steal anything from anyone.
You Were Given Permission to Take Something
Individuals should not be charged with petty theft if they only took something with the owner’s permission.
Exceptions to Petty Theft Charges in Los Angeles
The basic definition of petty theft appears very straightforward. However, there are actually several large exceptions that can make it difficult to fully grasp PC 484(a) and 488. For example, individuals will face more serious charges if they steal:
- Motor Vehicles
- Agricultural Products
Stealing any of these items can increase your charge to PC 487: Grand Theft. Additionally, individuals who take from another person using force or threats may be charged with PC 211: Robbery. All of these crimes come with different penalties, so it is essential to understand the exact charges you are facing.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
To convict you of a petty theft charge, the prosecution must prove several points to a jury. What must be proved depends on the type of offense that occurred.
Larceny is the act of physically taking property that does not belong to you. In order to convict you of petty theft by larceny, a prosecutor must show that you:
- Took physical possession of someone else’s property
- Took the item without the owner’s permission
- Took the item with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the property
All three of these points must be met to convict. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will understand how to weaken arguments that are meant to prove these points.
Theft by trick is generally known as a con. To convict someone of theft by trick, the prosecution must prove all of the following:
- You obtained property that belonged to someone else.
- You acquired the property through fraud or deceit.
- Took the property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of it.
- The property owner would not have given you ownership of the item were it not for the fraud.
Another way in which an individual can commit petty theft is through embezzlement. In order to convict, the prosecutor must prove that you:
- Were entrusted with another person’s property
- Used that property for your own benefit in a way other than how it was intended to be used
- Acted with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the property
Defending Against Petty Theft Charges in Los Angeles
Beating a charge under California Penal Code Section 484(a) & 488: Petty Theft can be difficult if you don’t have professional help. The Simmrin Law Group can go over the charges against you right now with a free case evaluation.
Get additional information about petty theft by giving us a call or completing our online contact form. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you may have if you or a loved one has been charged with petty theft.