Los Angeles Grand Theft Lawyer

Facing Grand Theft Charges?

Grand Theft charges in California are serious. A conviction for Grand Theft can carry a substantial county jail or prison sentence. A Grand Theft conviction can adversely affect your future employment, state license, and other benefits. The criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have successfully helped many clients avoid the worst consequences that come with a Grand Theft conviction. Call us before you talk to your employer or alleged victim to determine if we can effectively negotiate a civil settlement before charges are filed against you!

Grand Theft Law in California

Grand Theft is defined in California Penal Code section 487 as the unlawful taking and carrying away of the property of another valued at over $950. Property valued at $950 or less would be charged as a misdemeanor, commonly known as Petty Theft (Penal Code section 484(a)). The distinction between Petty Theft and Grand Theft is important, since the former is a misdemeanor and the latter is usually a felony. Grand Theft also applies to the stealing of certain types of property even if the value is less than $950.

Grand Theft is committed in the following cases:

When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding $950, or:

  • When domestic fowl, avocados, olives, citrus or fruit tree, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken with a value over $250 - Penal Code 487(b)(2);
  • When the property taken (regardless of value) is from the person of another, commonly referred to as "Grand Theft Person" (example- pickpocket.- Penal Code 487(c);
  • When the property taken (regardless of value) is one of the following:
    • Car, truck or other motor vehicle (Grant Theft Auto)
    • Firearm (Grand Theft Firearm)
    • Horse, mare, or gelding
    • Bovine animal (cow)
    • Caprine animal (goat)
    • Mule, jack, or jenny (donkey, burro or ass)
    • Sheep or lamb
    • Hog, boar, sow, pig, or barrow
    • An animal carcass.
  • Stealing personal property (by severance from the realty of another) from real estate (conversion of real property) with a value of $250 or more – Penal Code 487b;
  • Theft of gold dust, amalgam, or quicksilver (regardless of value) - Penal Code 487d;
  • Theft of dogs for research, slaughter, sale or commercial use (regardless of value) - Penal Code 487g;
  • Theft of trade secrets (any value) – Penal Code 499c;
  • Theft of aircraft (any value) – Penal Code 499d.

Grand theft charges can be filed even if the defendant's profit from the stolen goods was less than $950. According to the theft laws, the determination between filing grand theft charges and petty theft charges depends on the reasonable and fair market value of the property taken. The market value is usually determined as of the time of the taking. When there is uncertainty as to the market value then "replacement value" may be used to establish a value. For theft from retail stores (shoplifting) the value of the property is usually the retail price of the item taken or market value plus tax.

What the Prosecutor Has To Prove

For Grand Theft, the prosecutor has to prove the defendant intended to permanently deprive a person of his/her property, plus:

  • The defendant took and carried away the property of another without consent of the owner (Grand Theft Larceny), or
  • The defendant obtained title & possession of another's property through false pretenses and lies (Grand Theft by False Pretenses), or
  • The defendant took possession of another's property by deceit (Larceny by Trick or Device), or
  • Property was entrusted to the defendant and that the defendant used that property for his/her benefit (Embezzlement).

*Larceny by false pretenses and larceny by trick or device can sometimes be shown by the same facts.

The prosecutor can charge multiple counts of Grand Theft—one for each distinct theft that occurred, or the prosecutor can charge one count of grand theft if the multiple thefts were all part of a common plan or scheme. For example, in an embezzlement or ponzi scheme, the prosecutor can charge one count of grand theft, instead of a separate count for each time the defendant took money. The downside for a defendant facing multiple counts of grand theft is the accumulation of multiple sentences—in other words the defendant is exposed to more jail or prison time.

Penalties and Punishments

In California, Grand Theft is a "wobbler." A wobbler is a criminal offense that can be charged or classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor has the discretion to file grand theft charges as either misdemeanors or felonies. That decision usually depends on the circumstances of your case, such as the value of the property stolen and your prior criminal history, specifically theft-related convictions or prior felonies. A misdemeanor grand theft carries a maximum of 1 year in county jail along with restitution, court fines, and usually three years of informal probation. A felony grand theft conviction carries a sentence of 16 months to three years in custody. Additional time is added to your felony sentence for the following:

  • If the amount of the property or money taken exceeds $65,000, one year can be added to your sentence
  • If the amount of the property or money taken exceeds $200,000, two years can be added to your sentence
  • If the amount of the property or money taken exceeds $1.3 million, three years can be added to your sentence
  • If the amount of the property or money taken exceeds $3.2 million, four years can be added to your sentence.

In Los Angeles County, prosecutors and judges may be more lenient at sentencing time if there is significant restitution (e.g., paying the victim for the losses or giving back the stolen property).

Defenses

There are a number of defenses to Grand Theft charges. A skilled criminal defense lawyer may assert any of the following, depending on the circumstances:

  1. Consent – When a person consents to the taking of his or her property, it is not theft.
  2. Property – If what was stolen is not identifiable as property, it is not theft.
  3. Lack of Intent – If the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the victim of his/her property it is not theft. (Note: Intent to repay or return property is not a defense to theft charges if the intent is formed after the defendant takes the property.)
  4. Claim of Right – If the property stolen by the defendant belonged to the defendant, it is not theft. The claim of right defense is available if the defendant can claim true ownership of the property and that he/she was just trying to reclaim it. The defendant must have a reasonable belief that he/she is the true owner of the property.

Los Angeles Grand Theft Defense Attorneys

Contacting an attorney sooner rather than later can make a critical difference in the outcome of your case, especially when criminal charges have not been filed. In some cases, we have been successful in resolving the theft by a civil settlement rather than a criminal prosecution. That would depend on several factors:

  • The statements given by the accused to law enforcement
  • Any admission, confession, or settlement (in writing or orally) given by the accused
  • The ability to make restitution (pay back the victim)
  • The amount of money or value of the property stolen
  • Whether a police report or insurance claim was filed
  • The willingness of the victim to settle or to prosecute.

Call us to set up a confidential consultation to evaluate your case and advise you of your rights and legal options.

Contact a Los Angeles grand theft attorney to set up a free confidential consultation to evaluate your case.