Were You Charged with California Crime Petty Theft Under Penal Code 484?

Theft is a serious criminal accusation.  Even if you have a clean criminal record, the repercussions of a theft conviction in California can be devastating.  If you or one of your loved ones is convicted of theft, he or she could be heavily fined, sentenced to jail, and receive other penalties.

Right now, you need a tough and knowledgeable defense attorney on your side.  With over two decades of combined experience, the Ventura theft lawyers at Bamieh & De Smeth are committed to providing aggressive, proactive, and strategy-oriented legal representation.  We can work to reduce the penalties you face, or, potentially, have your case dismissed.  If you or a family member was arrested for theft in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, call our law offices immediately at (805) 643-5555 for a free legal consultation.

What is the Legal Definition of Larceny Under California Penal Code 484?

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Larceny, or theft, is a broad charge that can arise from a variety of alleged scenarios.  Cal. Penal Code § 484(a), the pertinent section of California’s theft statute, provides a general definition of the offense.  A person can be charged with theft in Ventura, Santa Barbara, or elsewhere in California when, allegedly, he or she does any of the following:

  1. “[S]teal[s], take[s], carr[ies], lead[s], or drive[s] away the personal property of another.”
  2. “[F]raudulently appropriate[s] property which has been entrusted to him or her.”
  3. Carries out a scam against another person (intentionally “defraud[s] any other person of money, labor or real or personal property” by using false pretenses, or false representations of facts).
  4. “[F]raudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property.”
  5. “[F]raudulently obtains the labor or service of another.”

What Does it Mean to Be Charged with Petit Larceny in Santa Barbara?

California’s criminal code distinguishes between numerous theft offenses, which can be broadly divided into two categories:

  1. Grand Theft (Grand Larceny)
  2. Petty Theft (Petit Larceny)

In addition to Cal. Penal Code § 484, which supplies a basic definition of theft, there are various California statutes which deal explicitly with petty theft.  These statutes include the following:

  • Cal. Penal Code § 484e(c) – Charged when, with intent to defraud, a person comes into possession of an access card, such as a debit card or credit card, “without the cardholder’s or issuer’s consent, with intent to use, sell, or transfer [the card] to a person other than the cardholder or issuer.”
  • Cal. Penal Code § 487c – Charged when a person converts real estate, worth less than $250, into personal property “by severance from the realty of another, and with felonious intent to do so steals, takes, and carries away that property.”
  • Cal. Penal Code § 487f – Charged when a person takes, steals, or abducts another person’s dog, if the dog’s financial value is $950 or less.
  • Cal. Penal Code § 490.2 – Charged when a person obtains any property, money, or labor by committing theft, and the value of the property, money, or labor is $950 or less.
  • Cal. Penal Code § 488 – Covers all other instances of theft which do not meet the definition of grand theft.

Theft should not be confused with burglary or robbery, which are related but separate offenses.  Burglary (Cal. Penal Code § 459) is charged when, allegedly, a person enters a property for the purpose of committing grand larceny or petit larceny.  Robbery (Cal. Penal Code § 211) is charged when a person allegedly uses force or fear to take property away from another person against that person’s will.

For an explanation of grand theft, which is distinct from petty theft, please refer to our library of legal resources, which contains a detailed article on grand theft charges under Cal. Penal Code § 487.

California Petty Theft Penalties: Jail Sentences and Fines

Every crime in California belongs in one of three categories:

  1. Felony – The most serious type of criminal offense.
  2. Misdemeanor – An offense of lesser severity.
  3. Wobbler – A crime that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on case-specific factors.

Petty theft is a misdemeanor.  Generally, in accordance with Cal. Penal Code § 490, “Petty theft is punishable by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.”
However, there are some exceptions where penalties can be more severe.  For example, if a person is convicted of petty theft as a violation of Cal. Penal Code § 487c, which is described in the previous section, he or she may be sentenced to up to one year in jail, instead of six months.  However, the maximum fine of $1,000 is the same.

Ventura Theft Defense Lawyers Serving Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley

Don’t be deceived by the term “petty” theft: there is nothing petty about an accusation of committing this crime.  If you are convicted, you could be facing costly financial penalties and up to a year of incarceration, which can destroy your career, hurt your future job prospects, and negatively affect your relationships with friends and loved ones.

As you prepare to face these grave accusations, you need to make sure that you are represented by a skilled, aggressive, and effective Ventura theft attorney with substantial experience handling such cases.  At The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, our renowned team of California defense attorneys combines over 22 years of experience representing adults and juveniles arrested for stealing.

We handle theft charges throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, including Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Santa Maria, Goleta, Orcutt, Lompoc, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Moorpark, Isla Vista, and other communities in the area.  For a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call Bamieh & De Smeth at (805) 643-5555 right away.

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