Santa Barbara Theft Attorneys
Theft statutes in California are pretty straightforward, but just because they are easy to understand does not mean you should try to defend yourself if accused. The punishments for theft can be quite severe, including massive fines and years in prison depending on the nature of your charge. A conviction for theft can also have long-term consequences and impact your ability to find employment or receive loans and financing in the future.
Do not let a simple mistake turn into a major disaster. If you or someone you know has been charged with a theft in California, then you need a knowledgeable Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyer to represent you and defend your rights.
In California, theft or larceny refers to an alleged crime against property in which one person intended to take the property of another person without permission. In order for a theft charge to be proven, the prosecutor needs to establish the property was owned by someone other than the defendant, and that the defendant had the intent to take that property away from the owner without permission. Items that can be "taken" in a theft case include physical objects like personal property, company assets, money; or even the value of certain services or labor.
California divides theft into two degrees: petty and grand. Specific forms of either type of theft can include burglary or shoplifting. The type of theft a person will be charged with depends on the value of the property that has been claimed stolen. That value determines the charge as well as how serious the possible punishment can be:
- Petty Theft: In general, a petty theft involves property that is valued at less than $950. While there are a few exceptions, anything under $950 will result in a charge of petty theft, which is usually charged as a misdemeanor, though in some instances when a taken item is of very low value, the prosecutor can choose to charge it as an infraction instead.
- Grand Theft: Of the two types, grand theft is far more serious and involves taking property with a value of $950 or more. There are a few unique instances where lower-value items are charged as grand theft, among them taking domestic fowl, fish or aquaculture products, or fruits and vegetables with a value of $250 or more. Thefts of automobiles, animals such as horses and cattle, and firearms are automatically charged grand theft, regardless of the value of the item taken.
Punishment for the theft depends primarily on the type of charge brought against the person, either petty or grand. In petty theft cases, the punishment usually does not go beyond a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a term of imprisonment of six months or less. If the stolen item is of very low value and the prosecutor chooses to charge the petty theft as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor, then a fine of up to $250 and no jail time may be imposed. Any prior criminal history can impact this decision, so first offenders may be shown more leniency.
Punishments for grand theft are much more severe. They can include imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, unless the prosecutor chooses to push for felony sentencing. In those cases, someone convicted of grand theft can be sentenced from six months to three years in state prison rather than county jail. This is why it is so important to have an experienced defense attorney to represent you.
If you have been charged with any kind of theft, do not try to protect yourself. Contact NordstrandBlack PC at (805) 962-2022 to speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys today.