Theft – What It Means if You're Charged
Being charged with theft happens all the time, and often because of miscommunications or misunderstandings. But if you are charged with theft, it's important to arm yourself with knowledge and learn a California criminal defense attorney can assist with your case to prevent a conviction.
What is Theft?
In California, theft by larceny (also commonly called petty theft) is clearly defined by Penal Code 484. To be convicted of this crime, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant:
- Took possession of property that was owned by someone else AND
- Knew that the property was owned by someone else AND
- Took the property without the permission of the original owner AND
- Intended to take the property either permanently or for an extended period of time without permission AND
- Actually moved the property or kept it for some amount of time, no matter how brief
There are multiple moving pieces to this accusation. A person must be proven to have actually taken property, intended to do so, and then moved to the property or possessed it for a certain amount of time to be convicted. As a result, California criminal defense attorneys can help you avoid conviction by poking holes in one or all of these aspects.
Theft by larceny is a distinct type of theft defined as theft when someone physically takes the property of another person.
What Possible Penalties Exist?
As petty theft is almost always charged as a misdemeanor, it typically carries the penalties for that level of crime. Possible penalties include:
- A maximum fine of up to $1000
- Imprisonment in county jail for up to six months
- Possible probation
Additional consequences may impact one's immigration rights and abilities and gun rights.
Defenses to Charges of Theft
A California criminal defense attorney can posit several defenses to any charges of larceny theft. Here are just a few examples.
Owner's Consent Was Given/Reasonably Assumed
If someone takes the property of another person but has a reasonable expectation of consent, they won't be convicted of this crime. For example, if you live with a roommate and the two of you have a tacit agreement to share certain household items, you won't be convicted of theft if you take one or more items and use them for a little while.
The Property Was Borrowed
Recall that, to prove theft, intention to permanently deprive someone of their property, or to at least do so for an unreasonable amount of time. If you intended to only borrow the property temporarily and return it immediately after, you won't be convicted of this crime.
You Had a Right to the Property
If you believed that the property was yours or you had a right to claim it, you won't be convicted of theft by larceny. Note that your defense counsel can use the fact that you may not necessarily have a right to claim the property in question – all that matters is whether you had a reasonable expectation for property ownership (i.e. you took a piece of shared property in a dorm with multiple roommates).
Why You Need a California Criminal Defense Attorney
There's no time to lose when it comes to any type of theft charge. If you've been charged with theft, don't hesitate to contact the Law Office of Peter James Chambers. We've got years of experience that can help you fight your charges. Contact us today and you'll get a free consultation to discuss your case.