What is Petty Theft?

petty theft

Contrary to what the name implies, the crime of petty theft is taken seriously under the California law. Even if you think the theft is minor or inconsequential, a conviction can have serious consequences. Depending on the value of the item or service stolen and the presence of any prior convictions, petty theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense and result in hefty fines and jail time.

At the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein, we work with Oceanside clients who have been charged with petty theft. Contact our office today to speak with our experienced theft attorney who can help you fight your charges. 

What is theft under the California law? 

California Penal Code section 484 (a) provides a definition of theft. A theft occurs when a person intentionally takes the property of another person without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Theft is not just physically taking an item from another person. It can also include acts such as false pretense, embezzlement, larceny or trickery. 

“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.”

Definition of Petty Theft in San Diego 

Petty theft occurs when an individual intentionally and unlawfully takes property that is valued less than $950 from another person. In most cases, a petty theft charge is considered a misdemeanor. If the value of the property stolen is less than $50, the charge may be reduced to an infraction. 

Petty Theft vs. Grand Theft 

Petty theft and grand theft are different crimes under the California law. The primary difference between the two crimes is the value of the property stolen. 

Grand theft is defined under Penal Code 487: “When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950)…” 

In addition, grand theft includes the taking of firearms and vehicles; certain crops and fowls with a value of over $250; and, certain fish or shellfish with a value of over $250. 

Penalties for Petty Theft 

In most cases, petty theft is considered a misdemeanor. As such, the penalties include up to 6 months in San Diego County jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If the stolen property was lost, destroyed or otherwise not returned to the rightful owner, you may also be responsible for reimbursing them for the value of the property. 

In addition to fines and jail time, defendants convicted of petty theft misdemeanors can have a mark on their records. While it may not seem like a big deal, a criminal record can prevent you from gaining employment, qualifying for housing or owning a firearm. 

This is why it is important that you seek the assistance of an experienced theft attorney to help you defend against your petty theft charges. 

Defending Against Petty Theft Charges 

The prosecutor must prove certain elements in order to convict you of petty theft. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this may include: 

  • You acted willfully and with intent
  • You did not have the owner’s consent 
  • The property did not belong to you
  • You moved the property away from the owner 

A skilled defense attorney can provide evidence and pose arguments to counter the prosecution’s claims. She can offer a number of defenses based on the unique facts of your case, including that you have been falsely accused or that the property was taken by mistake. 

Have you been charged with petty theft in Oceanside? Contact the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today to set up your free consultation. During the call, you will learn how our attorney can get you the best outcome possible for your Oceanside petty theft case.