In Los Angeles, grand theft is a general term for serious thefts of valuable property. However, grand theft has a broad definition and can be charged even in circumstances that don’t seem that serious. This leads to people serving long prison sentences for a single, bad mistake.
If you or someone in your family has been charged with grand theft, you need to speak to a Los Angeles grand theft attorney. At the Simmrin Law Group, our legal team has the experience and knowledge to turn around even the most serious grand theft cases. Let us give you a free consultation to get you started.
What Is Considered Grand Theft in Los Angeles?
Grand theft is defined by a state law known as California Penal Code Section 487. The simplest definition of grand theft is that you stole something worth more than $950. In general, if the value exceeds this amount, it counts as grand theft regardless of the circumstances.
However, there are other ways that theft can count as grand theft, even if the dollar amount was lower. You can face a grand theft charge if you took the property directly off of the person who owned it, such as by grabbing it from them and running or by mugging them. You can also face a grand theft charge for an item of lesser value if it was of a certain type, including:
- A motor vehicle
- A firearm
- Various agricultural products or fish/shellfish, if they are valued at $250 or more
If the theft falls under the $950 limit and doesn’t meet any of the other requirements above, it will be charged as petty theft, a less serious crime. It’s not uncommon for a grand theft charge to be reduced to petty theft if the circumstances warrant it and you have a skilled lawyer. Getting a charge reduced is one of the many ways a grand theft attorney in Los Angeles can help in a grand theft case, and it can save you years of incarceration.
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What Are Examples of Grand Theft?
Examples of grand theft could include:
- A young man grabs a woman’s purse and runs.
- A teenager on a bus sees the man next to him close his laptop and slide it into his backpack. When the man is distracted, the thief reaches into the man’s backpack – which the man is holding – and quietly takes the laptop.
- A woman enters a department store and, after trying on an expensive dress, she slips it into her backpack to shoplift it. The price tag on the dress is $970.
- A man breaks into a pickup truck, finds a handgun in the glovebox, and steals it. Taking the gun automatically counts as grand theft firearm, even if the weapon is worth way less than $950.
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What About “Grand Theft Auto”?
Grand theft auto is a version of the grand theft offense that is used any time a motor vehicle is stolen. Even though it is charged as grand theft, auto cases are very complicated and deserve their own explanation. If you are facing this kind of charge, you should check out our grand theft auto guide.
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When Is Grand Theft a Felony in Los Angeles?
Grand theft can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. For example:
- If the stolen property was a firearm, it is automatically a felony.
- If a car was stolen, and the charge is grand theft auto, it is usually charged as a felony—but not always.
- In most other grand theft cases, it is up to the prosecutor whether to charge you with felony grand theft or misdemeanor grand theft.
The prosecutor will consider both the details of your specific case along with any criminal history you may have when deciding on which level of a grand theft charge to pursue. Additionally, you should be aware that you can be charged with multiple counts of grand theft if you stole more than once.
Because of this, you could serve an additional sentence for each charge. However, if the different thefts were part of one ongoing plan, it should only be a single charge. An experienced Los Angeles grand theft lawyer can often help turn a series of grand theft charges into a single count. This could mean that even if you are convicted, you will avoid years of additional time in prison.
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What Are the Penalties for Grand Theft in Los Angeles?
The penalties you will face depend on how the crime is charged.
When facing a charge of misdemeanor grand theft, you could be looking at up to one year in jail along with fines.
The penalties for a felony charge increase greatly. If convicted, you could be sentenced to:
- 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison
- Increased fines
- Felony probation, which can include up to a year in jail
- Convicted felon status
It is important to note that the penalties mentioned above are for a first offense. If you already have a previous grand theft conviction on your record, you will likely face increased penalties.
There is also the potential for steeper penalties if the item you stole was especially highly valued. Your felony sentence could be enhanced with an additional:
- One year in prison for theft of an item valued at over $65,000
- Two years in prison for theft of an item valued at over $200,000
- Three years in prison for theft of an item valued at over $1,300,000
- Four years in prison for theft of an item valued at over $32,000,000
Can a Conviction Count Under California’s Three Strikes Law?
In most cases, a defendant will not receive a strike for a grand theft conviction. The notable exception is in grand theft firearm cases. If convicted of grand theft firearm with two prior strikes on your record, you could be sentenced to 25 years to life.
Of course, if you used a firearm in the act of the theft of any item, you could also be given a strike due to the violent nature of the crime. However, this crime would no longer be processed as grand theft but rather the more serious charge of armed robbery.
What Defenses Work in a Grand Theft Case?
There are several defenses that a skilled lawyer could use in a grand theft case. The best defense will depend on exactly what happened and what evidence there is against you. Common defenses include:
- You didn’t intend to steal anything
- You were reclaiming property that is rightfully yours or that you believed was rightfully yours
- You believed you had permission from the owner to take or use the property
- You were wrongfully accused (often occurring due to misidentification by a witness either intentionally or accidentally)
- Police violated your rights, coerced your confession, or searched you illegally in order to find evidence
This last defense is often used before trial. It can result in the judge dismissing your case altogether if you are able to present sufficient evidence that the police acted improperly. Using any of these defenses requires understanding the law and our complex legal system. Don’t take chances with your future. You need to talk to a Los Angeles theft crimes lawyer.
Talk to a Grand Theft Lawyer in Los Angeles for Free
At the Simmrin Law Group, we help our clients walk away from a mistake with the best future possible. Often this means no jail time, a lesser charge, or being found not guilty altogether. Let us help you. We will give you a free consultation and help you start building your defense. Fill out our online contact form or call us and get your free consultation today.