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Home Theft Crimes Petty Theft

Orange County Petty Theft Lawyer

Arrested for Petty Theft (Penal Code 484 & 488 PC)?

If you're charged with petty theft, we can help. The word "petty" might make you think a petty theft charge is no big deal. The truth is that it can become a big deal if the proper actions aren't taken. For this reason, we urge you to contact a competent attorney with experience in the area of criminal defense. Failing to do so could result in more severe legal punishment than you expect. A conviction for petty theft can result in:

  • Permanent criminal record
  • Significant fines and penalties
  • Hours of community service
  • Payment of restitution
  • The loss of certain rights
  • Loss of job or failure to find future employment
  • Civil action
  • Probation
  • Jail time

Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can provide you or someone you know charged with petty theft with an effective defense strategy to help minimize any penalties you may face. Call us immediately at (714) 530-9690 for a free consultation.

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What Is Petty Theft?

According to California Penal Code Statutes 484 and 488, petty theft is the stealing of property with a value of $950 or less. To convict you, the prosecution must prove that you:

  • Took another person’s property;
  • Did not intend to return the property; and
  • The property was worth $950 or less.

Each of these elements must be proved in a courtroom, particularly the element of intent. If someone picked up another person’s wallet at the gym or accidentally grabbed someone’s purse at a bar, he would not be convicted with theft if he did not intend to keep it. In the same manner, if a defendant believed she had a right to the property and took it during a misunderstanding, then she also could not be convicted.

Petty theft can overlap with other crimes, such as shoplifting. It is considered a misdemeanor crime, but a second petty theft charge can be charged as a felony. Stealing property directly from a person or by means of a threat or violence is considered burglary, which is a felony.

There are a few other situations in California in which theft is no longer considered petty and a charge of grand theft is pursued instead. According to Penal Code 487, taking certain fowls, fruits, and crops that have a value over $250 is grand theft, rather than petty. Similarly, taking certain types of fish and aquaculture products from a commercial organization in value over $250 is also grand theft. Finally, any theft of an automobile or firearm is considered grand theft, regardless of the value of the item.

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Are There Different Types of Petty Theft?

While the basic idea of petty theft is pretty simple, there are some specific types that should be noted since it can be more complicated than simply placing an object in your pocket and walking away with it. California Penal Code 484 describes a few different types of theft:

  • Theft by Larceny - This refers to the simplest form of theft, in which a person takes something that belongs to someone else without permission. Shoplifting and stealing from a friend or family member typically falls into this category.
  • Theft by Trickery - Such theft involves the use of deceit to take something without necessarily stealing it in a simple sense. For example, changing the price tag on an item to pay a lower amount than it is worth would constitute this type of theft.
  • Theft by Fraud - This is theft in which lies are used to take something that belongs to someone else. Pretending to be a store employee to walk out with an item without paying for it, for example, would constitute the use of fraud to commit theft.
  • Theft by Embezzlement - In California, embezzlement refers to taking any type of property that is entrusted to a person, not only money. An employee who steels office supplies or property in a store can commit this type of theft.

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Consequences of a Conviction

In California, petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor and comes with:

  • Up to six months in county jail;
  • A maximum fine of $1,000;
  • Restitution to the victim;
  • Potential immigration issues; and
  • Informal probation.

Our legal team can advocate for a reduced sentence or complete dismissal of all charges. It also possible to reduce this misdemeanor to an infraction if the offense involved property worth less than $50, which may only result in a fine of $250. But achieving any of these results requires a strong defense first.

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Defending Against a Petty Theft Charge

There are a few different ways we can help defend you against a petty theft charge, though it typically depends a great deal upon the specific factors within your case. One of the strongest defenses would be if you had consent to take an item and you were charged with theft due to a misunderstanding. If you take a company computer for use in a professional capacity, and you have been given permission to take and use the device for that purpose, then you may have a strong defense against a charge.

As mentioned earlier, intent is also an important factor when looking at a petty theft charge and how to defend against it. Sometimes accidents may occur that result in a charge when an honest mistake was at fault. Someone may simply forget to pay for a small item or take company property home without realizing it until it is too late. If you do not already have any prior convictions for theft, then these types of defenses can be quite effective, especially if you can demonstrate that it truly was an accident.

It is important to note that it is not a sufficient defense to simply say that you planned on giving an item back. Someone who takes a computer from work without permission, but who plans on returning it the next day, may still be charged with petty theft. Simply taking the item away without permission constitutes theft. If you can prove that you had consent to take an item from the property owner, however, then that is a strong defense.

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Do NOT Attempt to Represent Yourself

Don't be fooled by the fact that petty theft is a "minor" offense. California law is complicated and navigating the legal system can difficult. We have years of experience defending people like you who may have simply made a bad decision. Don't let one bad decision become any more painful with the second bad decision of trying to represent yourself.

Because petty theft is considered a minor crime, many attorneys prefer not to clog up the busy court system by going to trial. With our expertise and help, your charges could get lessoned or dropped altogether. We have an excellent reputation and are well-known in the Orange County legal system.

Law Office of Michael L. Guisti charge a flat fee, not an hourly rate. We have stayed on cases for years to achieve the results a client wants. Our Orange County theft defense attorneys are ethical, tenacious, and experienced. We have handled thousands of cases in Southern California since 1999. You don't have to worry about us not returning phone calls. Our firm believes in open communication and will walk you through the legal processes, step by step. Let our expertise defend you. Call Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at (714) 881-4152 for a free consultation.

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Additional Information

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.

(714) 530-9690

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“It was strongly recommended that I call federal defense attorney Michael L. Guisti. He had several investigators look at records and such, and my federal case was dismissed. Michael Guisti does what few attorneys can do, beat the federal government, and that is why if you’re in trouble with the government you need to call Michael Guisti right away!”

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