In California, “every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another” is guilty of theft. To be guilty of theft, a defendant must actually move the property even a small distance and keep it for a period of time. The consent of the owner is a complete defense to theft. In fact, since absence of consent is an element of theft, the burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant lacked the consent of the owner beyond a reasonable doubt. The state of mind of the person accused of theft is also an important factor. Removing an item by accident or mistake is not theft.
Retail theft is a common kind of theft and it’s charged in a number of ways. Petty theft is when the value of the property taken is up to $950. Grand theft is when the value of the property taken is above $950. In addition, the offense of petty theft with a prior singles out repeat theft offenders for harsher punishment. Even if the only property taken is a loaf of bread, the offense of petty theft with a prior can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Until recently, you could be facing petty theft with a prior charges if you had only one previous theft conviction. In 2010, the California legislature changed the law to require three previous theft convictions. Theft can be predicated on various forms of behavior. Theft by taking is larceny. Other forms of theft include theft by false pretense, theft by embezzlement, and theft by trick. District attorneys sometimes allege burglary alongside theft charges.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can analyze and develop trial defenses to theft. Alternatives may include negotiating a plea to a lesser charge.
To arrange a consultation in your theft case, please contact Alanna D. Coopersmith at (510) 628-0596