Petty Theft in San Diego
Petty theft is the unlawful taking of another's property without consent, that is valued at $950 or less. In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern.
Understanding Penal Code Section 484(a)
In consideration of the seriousness of petty theft, California has criminalized it under Penal Code section 484(a). Under this law, “Any person who feloniously steals, takes, carries, leads, or drives 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 petty theft."
Basically, to convict someone of PC 484(a), the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements:
- The defendant took possession of another's property;
- The defendant did so without the owner's permission;
- The defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently;
- The defendant moved the property.
Petty Theft is a Misdemeanor
Misdemeanor Petty Theft Penalties
- A maximum sentence of 6 months in county jail;
- A fine of up to $1,000;
- Informal probation.
It is important to note that if the accused has no prior convictions for theft, a petty theft of property having a value of $50 or less may be charged as a mere infraction and will be punishable by a fine of not more than $250.
Short Term Consequences:
In most instances, shoplifting or petty theft is a misdemeanor, or a low-level offense. The punishment or sentence for misdemeanors is usually a fine, a few days in jail or both. For example, a typical law may state that “anyone convicted of petty theft shall be fined no more than $500, incarcerated for no more than 30 days, or both.” It’s usually up to the judge to decide if which sentence you’ll get. He’ll consider things like the value of the property and whether it’s your first offense. Someone whose first offense is stealing $100 worth of merchandise from a store will likely get a lighter sentence than someone who steals the same merchandise but has a prior theft conviction, for instance. Also, the defendant will usually be ordered to give back what he took, or its value, if he doesn’t have it any more. This is called restitution.
A conviction for shoplifting is just like any other criminal conviction: You’ll have a criminal record that may follow you for the rest of your life. When you apply for a job, the employer will see the conviction when it does a criminal background check. This may make it harder for you to find a job. Also, if you apply for college or even a professional license – like a license to practice law or medicine – that conviction will be discovered and you may not get the license. And if you commit another shoplifting crime? In some states, a second conviction for petty theft or shoplifting will result in a felony conviction. Felonies carry with them much harsher sentences: Higher fines and almost certain jail time, perhaps one year or more.
Because of the severity of the penalties that are involved with petty theft charges, your criminal defense attorney will have to determine which legal defense strategy will work best in your particular situation.
- Accident; you believed you were the rightful owner of the property.
- Consent; the owner gave you permission to take the property.
- Lack of Criminal Intent; you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of their property.
If you or a loved on is charged with petty theft, especially if you are facing the threat of having to a felony conviction, the best thing you could do is find a skilled criminal defense attorney. You should particularly try to find a local criminal defense attorney who knows the local San Diego judicial system. Local criminal defense attorneys know how local judges and local prosecutors work, and can use that knowledge to better represent you. While this may sound easy to handle on your own, the reality is that litigation is quite complicated. To make sure you get the best legal scenario possible, you should talk to a skilled criminal defense attorney. Call the Monder Law Group today for more information.