To prove that a defendant is guilty of theft, the State must prove that:
1. The defendant took possession of property owned by someone else;
2. The defendant took the property without the owner’s consent;
3. When the defendant took the property he or she intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property
4. The defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period, however brief.
Under California law, there are two classifications of theft-petty and grand. Petty theft involves theft of property with a value less than $950, whereas the theft of property with a value of $950 or more constitutes grand theft. Additionally, California law designates the theft of certain types of property. Section 487 of the California Penal Code, designates the unlawful taking in any of the following as grand theft:
Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases:
When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950),
When domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
Fish, shellfish, mollusks, crustaceans, kelp, algae, or other aquacultural products are taken from a commercial or research operation which is producing that product, of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
Money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more in any 12 consecutive month period.
When the property is taken from the person of another.
When the property taken is any of the following:
(1) An automobile.
(2) A firearm.
Grand theft is normally charged as a felony; however, California law provides prosecutor latitude to charge grand theft as a misdemeanor based on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. A conviction for misdemeanor grand theft is no more than one year of imprisonment.
In case of felony grand theft under the California Penal Code Section 489 felony grand theft is punishable as follows:
(a) If the grand theft involves the theft of a firearm, by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.
(b) If the grand theft involves livestock, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(c) In all other cases, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year
There are a number of potential defenses to grand theft charges in California, which often center on the offender’s intent or knowledge. One of the most common defense tactics is the argument that, at the time the offense occurred, the defendant had a good-faith belief that he or she owned the property or was legally entitled to possess it. Further, a defendant may raise a defense as to the value of the property particularly where this fact is relevant to the offence classification. This can be a crucial defense if there was reasonable doubt as to whether the property alleged to have been taken is close to the $950 petty theft/grand theft threshold. Further, given the amount of latitude the prosecution possesses in charging theft cases mitigating evidence may be presented concerning the facts of the case or the defendant’s history in order to negotiate a please for a lesser charge.
Regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of a California grand theft charge requires the assistance of a skilled and committed California criminal lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of grand theft in the Visalia, California area, contact an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
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