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Petty Theft

What is the applicable law?

California Penal Code 484 reads as follows:

“Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.”

Furthermore, California Penal Code 487 and 488 define the two different types of theft. CPC 487 is broken down into sections (a) through (j) and encompasses sections relevant to Grand Theft. It outlines in detail the different scenarios of Grand Theft. CPC 488, simply states that all other scenarios, not specifically stated under CPC 487 is considered petty theft.

What does that actually mean?

Essentially, petty theft is a misdemeanor and will include the theft of an item that is valued at less than $400.00. California Penal Code 484 states how a stolen good shall be valued:

“In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern.”

If a person has been found engaged in theft as defined by CPC 484, of an item valued under $400.00 as defined under the same section, the government shall have the grounds to charge the person with petty theft.

What are the potential consequences?

California Penal Code 490 defines the potential consequences of petty theft.

“Petty theft is punishable by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.”

It is important to note that there is a range of consequences, and not a set sentence for the charge of petty theft. This is because the facts of each case vary and the background of each case will vary. It would be unfair for each person to receive the same sentence when there are differing degrees of petty theft. For example, a person who has numerous previous theft convictions will face harsher consequences, than someone who is facing a first time offense. Additionally, a person who stole several items at a value of $400.00 may face a higher fine, than someone who stole $10.00 worth of property. In any case, it is important to understand the potential defenses and argument that are available to you when you face petty theft charges. In order to get an accurate and knowledgeable understanding, it is important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away.