Theft by Trick – Important Things to Know
Being accused of stealing through trickery – called theft by trickery in the California Penal Code – can be devastating for your reputation and for your daily life. Knowing what to do if you are charged with this crime is critical so you can come up with an effective defense with your legal counsel.
What is Theft by Trick?
According to California Penal Code 484, theft by trick is a unique variation of the greater theft charge. To be proven guilty of this charge, a defendant must be proven to have:
- Obtained property they knew was owned by someone else AND
- The property owner previously consented to the defendant's possession of the property due to fraud or deceit AND
- The defendant intended to prevent the owner from having it again or for an extended period of time AND
- The defendant actually obtained and kept the property for some length of time
In a nutshell, theft by trick occurs when the defendant is accused of acquiring property through deceit or trickery. Foreknowledge or intent to steal must be maintained and proven beforehand, and the thief must actually have obtained the property and kept it for some time. Merely planning to steal is not the same charge. California criminal defense attorneys can make use of all these gray areas to defend their clients.
What Possible Penalties Exist?
These charges are usually charged as misdemeanors as opposed to infractions or felonies. As a result, potential penalties often include:
- Maximum fines of up to $1000
- Imprisonment in county jail for up to six months
Additionally, being convicted of this crime could lead to negative consequences for immigrants and for some of your privileges, such as gun rights.
Defenses to Charges of Theft by Trickery
A California criminal defense attorney can utilize several possible defenses if you are charged with theft by trickery.
Deceit or Fraud was Not Used
A defense attorney can attest that trickery in any form (i.e. lying or fraud) was not used to obtain the property. This would change the classification of the charges and make theft by trickery an impossible claim, possibly getting the case thrown out of court. This defense is possible because it relies on the prosecution proving intent to deceit, which is quite difficult.
Permanent Property Deprivation was Not Intended
Alternatively, a California defense attorney can show that you didn't intend to permanently deprive a property owner of their property. There may, for instance, have been a miscommunication where you took possession of property for a short time with the intent of giving it back. This charge requires intent for permanent property deprivation, not merely having the property for a little while.
Why You Need a California Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with theft by trickery, contact the law offices of Peter James Chambers. Our offices have lots of experience dealing with these cases and we're well-equipped to help you avoid a conviction and get back to your life. Contact us today and get a free consultation.