Theft by False Pretense – What You Need to Know
Being accused of theft is always rattling in stressful. But it's important to know what different theft charges mean and what you can do to defend yourself with the help of California criminal defense counsel. Here's everything you need to know if you have been accused of theft by false pretense.
What is Theft by False Pretense?
Most types of theft in California are distinguished with separate penal codes and require different burdens of proof from the prosecution. Theft by false pretense is defined in California Penal Code 484 and requires that the prosecution prove:
- That the defendant knowingly and intentionally deceived or defrauded a property owner by using a false pretense AND
- That the defendant did this intending to take property from the original owner on the basis of the lie or false pretense AND
- The owner actually gave the property to the defendant
All of this requires that the prosecution provide proof that there was some kind of false pretense or lie made in order to take possession of property. Furthermore, the intent to steal must be proven – this excludes cases of borrowing or taking reasonable possession of an item you felt you had a legal claim to.
In the legal sense, any false pretense can include a token, act, word, or symbol the purpose of which is to deceive another person. What qualifies as a false pretense?
- A person gives information they know is false – this prevents conviction if you believed information you gave to be true
- A misrepresentation made in a reckless manner
- Withholds information with the intention to deceive
- A promise that is not made with the intention of fulfillment
What Possible Penalties Exist?
As with many types of theft crimes, penalties are awarded based on whether they are a misdemeanor or felony, which are themselves categorized based on the value of the property allegedly stolen. Property worth less than $950 carries a misdemeanor charge, while property worth more than $950 usually incurs a felony charge.
Penalties for misdemeanors include:
- Up to $1000 in fines
- Up to six months in county jail
Felony penalties can include:
- Up to one year in county jail or
- Up to 16 months, two years or three years in state prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Defenses to Charges of Theft by False Pretense
Since much of the conviction for this crime requires knowledge of intent, skilled criminal defense attorneys can utilize multiple defense strategies.
No Intent to Steal
If the defendant did not necessarily intend to steal property, they won't be convicted of theft by false pretense. This can be proven by showing that they had a reasonable right to claim ownership to property or only intended to borrow the property, rather than keep it permanently.
Deception Was Not Intended
If the defendant gave information without knowing the information was false or without the intent to deceive, they did not commit theft by false pretense. For instance, if you borrowed an item from a neighbor, then forgot to return it due to an emergency, you didn't commit a crime.
The “Victim” Did Not Act on What Was Said
There's no theft by false pretense if the supposed victim of the crime didn't actually act on your information, symbol, or act.
Why You Need a California Criminal Defense Attorney
There's no need to go through your theft by false pretense case alone. The Law Office of Peter James Chambers has been helping regular folks just like you for years. Contact us today and get the best California criminal defense attorney on your side.