Theft Defense Attorney in Torrance, CA
Laws regarding theft are tailored to address and categorize a wide range of criminal behaviors. In cases involving shoplifting, the definitions are different from a case of grand theft auto. Shoplifting may qualify as grand theft depending on the value of the stolen property, but grand theft auto may be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony, regardless of the value of the vehicle in question.
If you are facing criminal charges in the Beach Cities and South Bay area, it’s important to find legal representation that understands how to handle theft charges. The Law Office of Andrew Bouvier-Brown can explain your legal options.
Don’t Try to Talk Your Way Out
Whether you’re being questioned by store employees on suspicion of shoplifting or there’s a police officer arresting you for any kind of theft, many people feel compelled to explain their innocence. Unfortunately, in these situations, anything that person says can and absolutely will be taken out of context and used against him or her. Once the loss prevention officer or police officer has made up their mind, you’re unlikely to convince them that it’s just a misunderstanding. Loss prevention officers at stores have heard every possible excuse, and you can’t expect sympathy from the police officer or the prosecutor in court. Take advantage of your right to remain silent, and contact an attorney who can offer advice for your specific circumstances.
Petty Theft Penal Code 484 & 488 PC.2
In the state of California, theft is defined as deliberately taking someone else’s property, depriving the owner of the value or enjoyment of that property. Petty theft generally refers to crimes where the value of the property stolen is less than $950. The theft of certain kinds of property (including firearms, horses, and vehicles), is considered “grand theft,” even if the property is valued less than $950.
While the name “petty theft” makes the charge sound less serious, a conviction can have serious consequences. When facing charges for any form of theft, it’s important to get legal representation.
The different forms of theft have names that you may recognize. Shoplifting is considered theft by larceny. Other kinds of theft include
- and theft by trick (such as swapping price tags to pay less at the checkout).
While there are many different forms of theft with many terms and definitions, the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history can have a significant impact on sentencing. Prior convictions can make a conviction of petty theft more serious, but even first-time offenders can face harsh sentences. As a misdemeanor charge, the maximum penalties (although rarely imposed, if ever) for first-time offenders are six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Common Theft Charges
– Taking property from a purse in a store or office
– Taking unattended property at a gym
– Taking property from an unlocked car, open windows of a home, or exterior of a home
– Removing wheels, grills, and other parts from parked cars
Petty Theft With a Prior
If you’ve previously been convicted of any form of theft (which could be burglary, receiving stolen property, petty theft, or other charges) and if that conviction resulted in serving time in jail or prison, then you may be charged with “petty theft with a prior.” Depending on the circumstances and the exact criminal history, “petty theft with a prior” can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, however, a conviction can mean anywhere from 16 months to three years in county jail or state prison.
Grand Theft Penal Code 487
As mentioned above, stealing certain kinds of property and anything worth over $950 can be considered grand theft in California. Cars, guns, horses, and large quantities of fruits, nuts, or fish can all classify a crime as grand theft, even if they are worth less than $950.
Stealing a vehicle, for instance, is called GTA, or grand theft auto. Taking property directly from another person (out of a pocket or a purse held by the victim) can also be defined as grand theft.
The language regarding grand theft, Penal Code 487, is similar to that for petty theft, so similar arguments can be made by the defense against petty theft and grand theft charges.
Being convicted of any crime, especially when that conviction results in jail time, can seriously affect employment opportunities. Many job applications inquire about whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. Even if those questions don’t come up on the application or in the interview, many employers use a background check as part of their process of selecting new employees. A prior conviction can be a deciding factor in which candidate an employer decides to hire. Particularly for those supporting families or with tenuous employment situations, a record of a conviction can have serious long-term effects.
Licensing and Immigration Problems
Criminal convictions for theft offenses often have “collateral consequences”– indirect consequences for the convicted person, not imposed directly by the criminal court system– which are far more severe than anything the criminal justice system might impose directly.
For example, even if you already have a stable job, many careers involve a California state license. Applying for a new license and even renewing existing licenses can get a lot more complicated with a criminal conviction on your record. Depending on the requirements of your licensing board, you may have to provide court records or other paperwork in addition to a written explanation for your record. In some fields, a conviction of theft can be sufficient reason to reject your application for a license or renewal. Needless to say, losing your license can mean losing your job, even if your employer and clients are sympathetic to your situation.
As an immigrant with a criminal record, every change in immigration status can become problematic. Whether you’re applying for a green card or citizenship, you can expect the criminal record to be a major obstacle. Of course, the conviction itself can be enough to put you in danger of being deported.
In any case, it’s important to have legal representation that can explain the potential consequences of each choice in the legal process. For many people, the potential loss of a professional license or the loss of legal immigration status is a far more serious consequence than the criminal justice system could ever impose directly.
Diversion Program for First Offenders
If convicted of petty theft without any prior theft-related convictions, and if the value of whatever was allegedly stolen was less than $50, then it may be possible to have the charge reduced to an infraction.
An infraction comes with a maximum fine of $250. If the value of the allegedly stolen property, money, or services is greater than $50, but it was still the defendant’s first theft-related offense, then it may be possible to participate in a diversion program. Diversion programs for petty theft may involve some combination of community service hours, repayment for stolen property, and anti-theft classes.
Theft Lawyer for Los Angeles South Bay
Theft charges can be a major problem for anyone in California. For Beach Cities and Torrance to Long Beach area, contact the Law Office of Andrew Bouvier-Brown for a consultation. If you’ve been accused of taking things from someone’s car or purse, then it’s important not to underestimate the potential gravity of a conviction. Even if your employer is understanding, you could lose state licenses for work. It’s important to find a lawyer who understands how to handle a case involving theft-related charges to minimize long-term consequences.
Contact a local attorney, and discuss the specifics of your individual case and the options available. Because every case is different, the only truly helpful advice is what comes directly from your consultation with a lawyer.