Orange County Theft Crime Attorneys
Committed & Knowledgeable Defense for Clients Facing Theft Charges
If you're reading this page, there is a good chance you’ve been charged with a theft crime, or have been accused of stealing in some way. Whether you actually committed the crime doesn't really matter right now. What you need this minute is dedicated and experienced legal representation to defend your rights. Law Office of Michael L. Guisti are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us today at (714) 530-9690 or Toll Free (888) 478-8999 to discuss your case and talk about your options.
Dial (714) 530-9690 to discuss your case.
Being accused of anything - let alone something as serious as theft - can be stressful for anyone. If this isn’t your first brush with the law, you may be feeling the pressure even more. But right now, we want you to focus on getting a competent Orange County criminal defense attorney who can begin representing you as soon as possible.
For the past 15 years, we've gone above and beyond to offer legal counsel to those who need it most, when they need it most. We're prepared to bring the same level of tenacity and knowledge to your case. Our record speaks for itself.
What Exactly Is a Theft Crime?
While it may seem obvious, theft crimes actually include a wide variety of possible charges you might not have heard about until now. The one underlying fact that ties them altogether - the person accused of the crime knowingly took something that didn't belong to them.
Under California criminal code there is more detail about what this means and how it must be proven. But, in general, if you’ve taken something from someone that doesn’t belong to you - whether it's a pack of gum, a new car, or someone’s identification - you’ve probably committed a theft crime. Below are some of the more common theft charges:
- Petty Theft - California Penal Code 484 and 488 define petty theft as taking property with a value less than $950, with the exception of automobiles and firearms.
- Identity Theft - A specific type of theft in which a person’s private information is used to commit fraud in that person’s name.
- Grand Theft - According to California Penal Code 484 and 487, grand theft occurs when property is taken in excess of $950, or in any case involving an automobile or firearm.
- Robbery - California Penal Code 211 defines robbery as taking a person’s property directly away from them through the use of force or threats.
- Burglary - Entering another person’s home, place of business, or just about any other building without permission, with the intent of taking another person’s property or committing any other felony, is California’s definition of burglary according to Penal Code 459.
One interesting addendum to petty theft laws in California is the addition of possible "petty theft with a prior" punishments. According to Penal Code 666, anyone convicted of petty theft with a previous theft crime conviction may have the punishment enhanced with additional jail time or can even be sentenced to a state prison.
Burglary vs. Robbery
Burglary and robbery are both property theft crimes, and though they are somewhat similar and often used interchangeably in casual conversation, they have very different legal meanings.
Burglary - A burglary, according to California Penal Code 459, occurs when a person enters someone else's property unlawfully in order to commit theft or a felony. The occupant of the property does not need to be there - in fact most burglars prefer the occupant not be there - and just about any type of building can be entered for this purpose. Homes, business, and offices can all be targeted for burglary.
Robbery - A robbery, according to California Penal Code 211, occurs when a person takes something of value directly from someone else by using intimidation, threats, or actual force. This can occur in someone's home or out of it, and always involves interaction between the robber and the actual person who is being stolen from during commission of the crime. It can involve a single victim or multiple victims, and the robber may be armed or unarmed.
Is Theft from an Employer Embezzlement?
Embezzlement refers to the taking or unauthorized use of property or something of value that belongs to someone else and is entrusted to the accused. This generally makes theft from an employer, even something relatively small or of low value, a form of embezzlement, which is charged under California Penal Code 503 as either grand theft or petty theft, depending on the value of the stolen item.
Grand Theft from Employer - In California, grand theft is defined as stealing or borrowing property without permission that is either: worth more than $950, an automobile, or a firearm. This means that someone who takes a company car for an unauthorized ride can be charged with grand theft for the use of the vehicle. Grand theft is a "wobbler" in California, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case. Misdemeanor grand theft can result in one year in county jail, while felony grand theft carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.
Petty Theft from Employer - Petty theft in California refers to stealing or borrowing property without permission that is worth less than $950. That is a very distinct and important line, considering the difference in severity of charge. Petty theft is always charged a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in county jail. In other words, the difference between taking something worth $930 and something worth $980 is up to six months more jail time.
What is Larceny?
Larceny refers to a person taking something of value from someone else's property, but unlike burglary, it does not involve the unlawful entry of that person's property. For example, if a person steals a roommate's laptop computer, then that would be larceny. Vehicular burglary is always referred to as larceny, regardless of how an individual entered the vehicle.
Shoplifting is a form of larceny since shoppers are welcomed into a store and do not enter it illegally, but take property without permission from the store. In California, shoplifting can be charged as either petty or grand larceny, depending on whether the value of the item or items taken is more than $950. Theft from the elderly is an all-too-common form of larceny, usually perpetrated by the children or grandchildren of an elderly person. Healthcare providers and professionals at a retirement or rest home can also commit this form of larceny by stealing from those in their care.
I Never Meant to Take Anything
While "I didn’t mean to do it" may not be the best possible defense, the intent behind an act is certainly an important aspect of any criminal charge and case. In a shoplifting charge, for example, if you simply forgot that you had placed an object in a pocket and had meant to pay for it, then you may be able to make a good case for defending your actions or diminishing your punishment. This is much easier if you do not already have previous charges or convictions for theft.
Intent to act is very important in cases involving identity theft. In California, simply possessing another person’s personal and private information is not inherently illegal, and does not constitute identify theft. Using, or planning to use, the information in fraudulent or illegal ways is when a situation crosses over into theft. If you can demonstrate that you never used such information illegally, and did not intend to do so, then you will have a much stronger defense against such a charge.
What Happens if I Am Convicted of a Theft Crime?
As with most criminal defense matters, what happens next typically comes down to several factors, which include:
- How much was the item worth? This will determine whether you have been charged with a grand or petty theft crime. Petty theft only results in up to six months in jail, while grand theft can result in up to three years in jail. Extremely valuable items can result in even longer sentences due to high-value penalty enhancements.
- Do you have any previous convictions? If you are accused of grand theft, then it can be charged against you as either a misdemeanor or felony. Felony grand theft carries harsher penalties, and any criminal history you have is likely to sway the prosecutor one way or the other regarding how to charge you. If you have previous convictions for theft, expect a felony charge and conviction will probably result in jail time of two or three years.
- Was a deadly weapon used? Theft that involves the use of a weapon is typically charged as robbery, which is a felony and either charged as first-degree or second-degree robbery, depending on the details of the case. Use of a gun while committing a robbery in California results in a much more serious sentence of at least 10 years in prison.
- Do you have an experienced criminal defense attorney? If you have a good attorney, then conviction is not the end for you. Your representation can argue for lenient sentencing, offer evidence as mitigating factors to reduce your sentence, and begin working on an appeal if appropriate. No matter what happens, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital through every step of the criminal trial process.
What are Penalty Enhancements?
In California, penalty enhancements typically refer to any additional circumstances that impact the penalty of a defendant if he or she is convicted of a criminal offense. When dealing with theft crimes, this often comes down to the value of the item that was stolen. The difference between petty and grand theft, for example, occurs at the threshold of $950 in value, but higher values can cause additional prison time following a conviction. According to Penal Code 12022.6, the following enhancements may occur based on the value of a stolen item:
- Value of $65,000 or more = 1 additional year
- Value of $200,000 or more = 2 additional years
- Value of $1.3 million or more = 3 additional years
- Value of $3.2 million or more = 4 additional years
Use of weapons, threats, and force can typically alter the nature of a charge. For example, someone who enters a store, places an item in his or her pocket, and leaves will typically be charged with petty or grand theft depending on the value of the item. If someone enters the same store and takes the same item, but threatens an employee with a gun before leaving, then it would likely become a felony robbery charge with harsher penalties involved.
Contact an Orange County Theft Crime Attorney Immediately
Even a minor offense such as shoplifting can cause irreversible damage to your record. Even if the crime isn’t a felony, you still could be facing fines and significant damage to your personal and professional life.
That is why we encourage you to contact an OC theft crime lawyer at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti as soon as possible. We take accusations of theft seriously and we will challenge the prosecution’s case every step of the way. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work.
Dial (714) 530-9690, day or night, to speak with one of our representatives.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.