For as long as anyone can remember, petty theft was the theft of property valuing $400 or less. That made grand theft the theft of property valued at $400 or more. Of course back in the day, $400 was a lot of money. But it’s gotten to the point where if someone lifts a coat, shoes, or an iphone they could be hit with felony charges of grand theft. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill this month that boosts the dollar threshold, from $400 to $950. It’s about time.
Similarly petty theft with a prior – a felony offense – could be charged if a shoplifter has any petty theft prior. But last month a little-known provision of Chelsea’s Law beefs up the requirements for petty theft with a prior. To be charged with that crime, an accused must have three prior convictions for petty theft. Chelsea’s Law, named after Chelsea King, a 17-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender, mandates life in prison without parole for persons convicted of violent sex crimes against children with aggravating factors present.