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Theft Crimes

Auto thief in blackbraking into car

While theft is the taking of someone else’s property, there are many California crimes that fall under the category “theft”.  In this section we will examine some of the more common theft related crimes and their elements

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Penal Code 487 – Grand Theft

Grand theft is the intentional taking away of another person’s property that is valued more than $950.  Grand theft is a wobbler which means the prosecution can charge this as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  In most cases the prosecution is going to file the case as a felony initially, as it is very difficult to increase the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony at a later date and requires court approval.

 

Elements:

  1. Defendant took possession of property owned by someone else.

  2. Defendant took the property without the owner’s consent.

  3. When the defendant took the property he intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or 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; and

  4. Defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.

  5. The property was worth more than $950.

 

Penalties:

 

As a misdemeanor you can face up to a year in county jail, three to five years of probation, fines and fees. You may also be required to complete a theft intervention course. You may also have to pay victim restitution.

As a felony you can face state imprisonment of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.  You will also be placed on felony probation and be ordered to pay fines and fees.  You may also have to pay victim restitution.

 
Penal Code 484 – Petty Theft

Petty theft is the direct misdemeanor version of grand theft, requiring that the property be worth less than $950.

Elements:

  1. Defendant took possession of property owned by someone else.

  2. Defendant took the property without the owner’s consent.

  3. When the defendant took the property he intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or 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; and

  4. Defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.

Penalties:

A conviction for misdemeanor petty theft will expose you to up to six months in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and probation between three to five years.  You may also be required to pay victim restitution.

 
Penal Code 495.5 – Shoplifting

Penal Code 495.5 is the charge that most people think of when they hear the term theft.  Images come to mind of a person shoplifting from a store.  Prior to the passage of Prop 47, shoplifting would be prosecuted either as petty or grand theft or as a burglary.  After Prop 47, the new shoplifting law was created.

 

Elements:

  1. Defendant entered a commercial establishment.

  2. When the defendant entered, it was open during regular business hours; and

  3. When he entered the commercial establishment, he intended to commit a theft.

 

You’ll notice that what is missing from the elements is the requirement that you take the property.  All the prosecution must show is that you entered the establishment with the intent to commit a theft during business hours.

 

Penalties:

If you are convicted of shoplifting, you may be sentenced up to 180 days in county jail.  You will face between three to five years of probation and fines up to $1,000.  The court may also require you to attend a theft intervention program.  You may also be required to pay victim restitution.

 
Penal Code 211 – Robbery

Robbery is the taking of another person’s property through the use of force or fear.  Robbery may be charged as either first degree or second degree, depending upon the circumstances of the case.

 

Elements:

  1. Defendant took property that was not his own.

  2. The property was in the possession of another person.

  3. The property was taken from the other person or their immediate presence.

  4. The property was taken against that person’s will.

  5. The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent the person from resisting; and

  6. When the defendant used force or fear, he intended to deprive the owner permanently or 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; and

 

Penalties:

If you are convicted of first-degree robbery you may face a term of imprisonment of 3 years, 4 years, or 5 years. You will also face a fine up to $10,000.  You may be placed on felony probation and you will be ordered to abide by a variety of terms including submitting your person or house to random search.  You may also have to pay victim restitution.

 

If you are convicted of second-degree robbery you may face a term of imprisonment of 2 years, 3 years, or 5 years. You will also face a fine up to $10,000.  You may be placed on felony probation and you will be ordered to abide by a variety of terms including submitting your person or house to random search.  You may also have to pay victim restitution

 

Estes Robbery:

 

An Estes Robbery is when a shoplifter uses force or fear to get away from store security or loss prevention. The term comes from the case “People v. Estes”. Prior to the court’s decision, in order to be found guilty of a robbery the force or fear aspect must have been used prior to the defendant obtaining the property.  However, in most shoplifting cases the defendant already has the property by the time store security approaches. In the case of Estes, the defendant pulled a knife on the security guard who was attempting to stop him.  The court found he could be charged with robbery because he used the force during the commission of the crime.

If you are convicted of an Estes robbery you will face the same penalties as a second-degree robbery, unless a weapon was involved.

 
Penal Code 459 – Burglary

Burglary is entering into a structure or a room with the intent to commit a theft or felony therein. Depending on the facts of the case, the prosecution may charge burglary as either a first-degree or second-degree.

 

Elements:

  1. The defendant entered a building/room within a building/locked vehicle/structure.

  2. When he entered, he intended to commit a theft or a felony

 

Penalties:

If you are convicted of first-degree burglary you may face state imprisonment for 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years. You may also be fined up to $10,000. You may also be placed on felony probation. You may also be required to pay victim restitution.

Second degree burglary may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

 

If you are convicted of second-degree burglary as a misdemeanor you will face up to one year in county jail. If you are charged as a felony you will face 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison. You may also be placed on felony probation in lieu of custody time.  You may also be required to pay victim restitution.

 
Penal Code 466 – Burglary Tools

California’s statute regarding burglary tools prevents any person for possession tools that, in law enforcement experience, are commonly used to commit burglaries of cars and homes.  One of the main problems with this statute is that it leaves the definition of what is a burglary tool up to debate, as well as criminalizes a variety of items that are common among citizens to carry. Imagine being charged with possession of burglary tools for having a screwdriver in your pocket.

 

Elements:

  1. Defendant had on his person in in his possession a:

    1. Picklock

    2. Crow

    3. Keybit

    4. Crowbar

    5. Screwdriver

    6. Vice grip pliers

    7. Water-pump plier

    8. Slide hammer

    9. Slim Jim

    10. Tension bar

    11. Lock pick gun

    12. Tubular lock pick

    13. Bump key

    14. Floor-safe door puller

    15. Master key

    16. Or other burglary instrument or tool

  2. Defendant had the felonious intent to use the burglary tools to break or enter into a building, railroad car, aircraft, vessel, trailer coach or vehicle.

 

Penalties:

Possession of burglary tools is a misdemeanor. If you are found guilty you will face up to six months in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and between three to five years of probation.

 
Penal Code 496 – Receiving Stolen Property Law

California’s receiving stolen property law is designed to discourage the transfer of stolen property from the original offender to another.  The main crux of the law is that if you receive stolen property you have to know that it was stolen.

 

Elements:

  1. The defendant bought/received/sold/aided in selling/concealed or withheld from its owner/aided in concealing or withholding from its owner property that has been stolen; and

  2. When the defendant bought/received/sold/aided in selling/concealed or withheld/aided in concealing or withholding the property, he knew that the property had been stolen.

 

Penalties:

Receiving stolen property may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  If you are convicted as a misdemeanor you may face up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and probation between three to five years. 

If you are convicted as a felony, you may face between 6 months, 2 years, or 3 years in custody.  You may also face a fine up to $10,000.  You may also be placed on felony probation in lieu of custody sentence.

 
Vehicle Code 10851 – Unlawful Taking or Driving of a Vehicle

California Vehicle Code 10851 is also known as California’s “joyriding” law.  The prosecution may charge this crime as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the value of the vehicle.

 

Elements:

  1. The defendant drove someone else’s vehicle without the owner’s consent; and

  2. When the defendant drove the vehicle, he intended to deprive the owner of possession or ownership of the vehicle for any period of time.

 

Penalties:

 

If you are convicted as a misdemeanor you may face up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $5,000, and probation between three to five years.

If you are convicted of a felony you will face a term of imprisonment between 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.  You may also face a fine up to $10,000 and felony probation. You may also be required to pay restitution for any damage to the vehicle.

 
Penal Code 215 – Carjacking

Carjacking is the act of taking a vehicle form the possession of another through force or fear.  The crime of carjacking is often depicted in Hollywood movies where a person uses a gun in order to take a vehicle from a bystander.

 

Elements:

  1. The defendant feloniously took a motor vehicle form the possession or immediate presence of the victim.

  2. The victim was either the driver or the passenger of said motor vehicle

  3. The motor vehicle was taken against the will of the person in possession.

  4. The taking was accomplished by means of force or fear.

  5. The defendant acted with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the vehicle of that possession.

 

Penalties:

 

Carjacking is a felony. If you are convicted you will face between 3 years, 5 years, or 9 years in state prison. You will also be fined up to $10,000.  You may be placed on formal felony probation. You may also be required to pay victim restitution for damage to the property and if the victim seeks counseling as a result of the incident.

 
Penal code 503 – Embezzlement

Embezzlement is the fraudulent taking of money or property that belonged to another and that you were entrusted with. This crime is most often charged with an employee steals from the company.  For example, when a cashier takes money from the register.

Elements:

  1. A relationship of trust and confidence existed between the defendant and the victim.

  2. Pursuant to that relationship defendant accepted property entrusted to him by the victim.

  3. With the specific intent to deprive victim of his property, defendant appropriated or converted it to his own use or purpose.

 

Penalties:

Embezzlement can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony if the amount taken is over $950. If you are convicted as a misdemeanor, you will face up to one year in the county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and three to five years of probation.

If you are convicted as a felony, you will face between 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years imprisonment.  You may also be fined up to $10,000, placed of felony probation, and ordered to pay victim restitution for the item(s) taken.

 
Penal Code 530.5 – Identity theft

Identity theft is the use of someone else’s personal identifying information without their consent.  Identity theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  Given the large amount of identity theft that occurs, many district attorney offices have dedicated and trained prosecutors who specialize in identity theft.

Personal identifying information (PII) can be a number of things.  This can include debit and credit card numbers, social security number, birth date, driver’s license, professional license numbers, and health insurance.  It can also include addresses, email accounts, passwords, and social media accounts

 

Elements:

  1. The defendant willfully obtained someone else’s personal identifying information.

  2. The defendant willfully used that information for an unlawful purpose.

  3. The defendant used the information without the consent of the person whose identifying information he was using.

 

Penalties:

 

If you are convicted as a misdemeanor, you will face up to one year in the county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and three to five years of probation.

If you are convicted as a felony, you will face between 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years imprisonment.  You may also be fined up to $10,000, placed of felony probation, and ordered to pay victim restitution.