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
- 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
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).
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:
Consent – When a person consents to the taking of his or her property, it
is not theft.
Property – If what was stolen is not identifiable as property, it is not theft.
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.)
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.
Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Fight Your Grand Theft Charges
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 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 criminal attorney
to set up a free confidential consultation to evaluate your case.