Petty Theft
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What is Petty Theft?

Petty theft can be classified as a crime that refers to an act in which a property that belongs to another is taken without that person giving consent. The term is often used along with “larceny,” which refers to the unauthorized taking and removal of another individual's personal property with the intention of them being permanently deprived. 

Essentially, it’s a crime against the right of possession. Additionally, petty theft or larceny is nonviolent theft and often gets charged as a misdemeanor. 

A person commits petty theft when the item that was taken is less than a specified amount of usually less than $1,000. In general, when equipment or merchandise is stolen from a store, the crime is classified as shoplifting; however, there are states where petty theft laws include retail thefts or shoplifting. 

Petty Theft in the State of California

Like many other states, California classifies theft offenses according to the value of the property that was taken. As per Penal Code 484, in California, the value of a property is measured according to its market value. Additionally, if services are stolen, their value is determined according to the contract price or the going wages for such services. 

Various forms of theft can be charged as petty theft in the State of California per Penal Code 484: 

  • Theft - by means of a trick like damaging property in a store, so you can pay less.
  • Theft - by means of fraud or false pretense, obtaining someone else’s property without their consent. 
  • Embezzlement - depriving an owner of the use of the property they own.

Per California law, petty theft is stealing any property with a value of $950 or less. Most of those thefts are charged as misdemeanors and can lead to a jail sentence of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. 

If a property has a value of less than $50, the prosecutor can mark the offense as an infraction if the offender has no other theft-related convictions. If a petty theft gets classified as an infraction, it’s punishable only with a fine of up to $250. 

Petty Theft as a Felony 

If petty theft involves stealing property valued at $950 or less, it may be charged as a felony or a “wobbler” if the offender has these two previous convictions: 

  • One or more prior theft-related convictions for which a term of imprisonment was served.
  • Prior conviction for a violent or severe offense - such as sex offense or embezzlement. 

A misdemeanor charge can result in up to a year in jail, while a felony charge can lead to a sentence in a state prison of anywhere from 16 months to two to three years.

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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