Grand Theft

Concord Dealership Test Driver Charged with Grand Theft (CA Penal Code 487(d)(1))

A Concord dealership employee claims that an unidentified man kidnapped him and stole a 2015 Chevy van during what was supposed to be a test drive of the vehicle. Allegedly, when the man started off on the test drive, he informed the employee that he was actually stealing the car and taking the employee with him. The supposed victim was able to escape when the 2 stopped in Pittsburg and members of the Antioch police force were able to apprehend the suspect later that day. He was charged with theft of a vehicle, kidnapping, and resisting arrest.

California law is strict when it comes to the theft of a vehicle. In fact, the crime (more commonly known as ‘grand theft automobile’), actually consists of 2 different charges. Frist, under California Penal Code 487(d)(1), it is considered ‘grand theft’ when an individual steals property valued over $950. Second, the theft of a vehicle (CA Vehicle Code 10851) is the crime often referred to as ‘joyriding.’ Depending upon the length of time an individual seems to plan to take the vehicle, either or both offenses could apply. If you planned to take the vehicle for a short period of time, you will likely be charged with ‘joyriding,’ whereas if you planned to take the vehicle permanently, you will be charged with its theft.

Both crimes are California ‘wobblers,’ meaning that the decision as to whether to treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony is left up to prosecutors to determine, based on the facts of the individual case. For example, when a person steals a vehicle, they are normally charged with felony GTA and could face up to 3 years in county jail. However, joyriding is most often treated as a misdemeanor, carrying with it a potential $5,000 fine and a term of 1 year in county.

Airport Carjacking Suspect Wounded By Police (CA Penal Code 215)

A red Honda was recently taken from an individual while at the local airport. Witnesses claim that the alleged thief crashed the car into a light pole, exited the vehicle with a backpack, and was then shot in the stomach by a police officer. He remains in stable condition in a local hospital. Upon release, he will almost certainly be charged with a California carjacking crime.

While most media reporters have chosen to focus on the fact that a law enforcement official wounded the suspect, it will be the purpose here to set forth what may happen to anyone accused of the crime of carjacking. Similar to robbery cases, a key component of California carjacking law (CA Penal Code 215) is the use of ‘force or fear.’ This means that a person attempting to steal a car from another individual must do it, not only in the presence of that other person, but through the use of either threats or through the use of force. What this amounts to is a serious crime.

Carjacking is always considered a felony in California. Oftentimes, someone accused of carjacking is also accused, at the same time, with a robbery, battery, grand theft auto, or assault charge, depending on the facts of the case.   If convicted, the person involved in the carjacking at the airport may face anywhere from 3 to 9 years in state prison. Even if he does not end up going to prison, he will be subject to probation and a potential $10,000 fine.

Two Women Face Charges of Grand Theft in S.F. Stonestown Galleria (CA Penal Code 484 and 459.5)

Two young women were  the alleged culprits in a 24-pair sunglass shoplifting spree that lasted only about 1 minute.  The women simply grabbed approximately $7,000 worth of store property before running off with the loot.  They were caught by store surveillance cameras and local law enforcement officials hope to identify the women soon.  If caught, they face charges of grand theft.

Although we have termed these women’s crime ‘shoplifting,’ under California law, it is actually considered ‘theft.’  According to California Penal Code 484 and 459.5, their violation of the law cannot be considered either ‘petty theft’ or ‘shoplifting.’  In order for those laws to apply, the value of the merchandise or property taken must be under $950.  When the property or merchandise in question is valued at more than $950, CA PC 487 (‘grand theft’) more appropriately applies.  Even ‘shoplifting’ sunglasses valued at over $950 could be considered grand theft.

Usually, grand theft is a California ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it is up to prosecutors assigned to the case to determine whether they will treat the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  In other words, these women could face the same penalties as someone who embezzled thousands of dollars from a company or someone who broke into another person’s home to steal over $950 worth of property.  If convicted on misdemeanor grand theft charges, these ladies could find themselves facing up to 1 year in county jail; if prosecutors decide to treat it as a felony, they could spend up to 3 years each in state prison.

 

Mountain View Man Arrested for Selling Stolen Property (CA Penal Code 496)

Oftentimes, when property is stolen, law enforcement officials encourage victims to search for their items in pawn shops and on online venues.  For one set of homeowners, a Craigslist search proved fruitful in this respect.  After a delivered package was stolen from a home in Palo Alto (a new awning for the very porch it was taken from), the owner decided to try to find his property, valued at about $250.  Upon hearing about the advertisement, local police set up a sting operation designed to get the perpetrator to sell the item to an officer.  It worked; the 39-year old Mountain View man was arrested after attempting to sell the stolen property to a law enforcement officer and on various drug possession charges.

California Penal Code 496 (termed ‘Receiving Stolen Property’) addresses various crimes related to the possession, sale, or receipt of stolen property.  Any individual who is caught receiving, buying, hiding, or selling stolen property could be prosecuted under this section of the law.  Additionally, prosecutors must be able to prove that a) the property in question was, indeed, stolen; b) the person attempting to sell the stolen property should have reasonably known that the property was stolen; and c) the person is actually in possession of these stolen goods.

This crime is what is known as a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it is up to the prosecutors handling the case to determine whether to treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  Usually, this decision is made on the basis of the value of the property.  In other words, if the property in question is valued at over $400, then prosecutors will likely treat it as a felony; if it is valued at under $400, they will likely treat it as a misdemeanor.  If a violation of CA PC 496 is treated as a misdemeanor, penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.  However, if the violation is treated as a felony, a convicted individual may expect to spend up to 3 years in county jail and pay a $10,000 fine.

 

Statue of Jesus Stolen from Castro Valley Church (CA Penal Code 487)

A Castro Valley Catholic church, the Church of the Transfiguration on East Castro Valley Boulevard, is missing one of its most important religious icons, a 200-pound, bronze, life-size statue of Jesus on the cross.  It is a unique work, irreplaceable, and its value can never truly be calculated.  However, it was commissioned to a particular artist through a Canadian company in 2006, meaning it likely cost the church a pretty penny.

California law is quite clear on the matter of theft.  There are, in fact, two types of theft defined by the California Penal Code, the most serious of which is ‘Grand Theft’ (CA Penal Code 487).  Generally speaking, ‘theft,’ is described as any illegal ‘taking’ of another person’s property without their express permission.  The kind of property in question matters very little; its value, however, matters a great deal.  If, for example, an individual were to steal property valued at or under $950, then this crime would be considered ‘petty theft’ (CA PC 484/488) and the legal consequences for having been found guilty of this crime would be rather light.

Comparatively, when the value of property that has been illegally taken is over the $950 mark, as the statue of Jesus in the story above very likely is, it is considered ‘grand theft.’  Usually, the crime of ‘grand theft’ is a ‘wobbler’ in California, meaning that prosecutors may, on their own, decide whether they will treat the offense as a misdemeanor or as a felony grand theft.  Their decision, in turn, is based on the facts in each specific case.  Thus, the thieves who stole the statue from the garden of the Church of the Transfiguration may be looking at anywhere from 1 year in county jail (if it is treated as a misdemeanor) or 3 years in state prison (if treated as a felony).  The faithful of the Church of Transfiguration have publically stated that they will accept the return of their statue, no questions asked and no charges laid.

 

Gas Station Nozzle Switch Theft on The Rise (CA Penal Code 484 & 495.5)

If you’ve noticed something strange happening at gas stations in the Bay area lately, you might not be alone.  Here’s what happens:  someone comes up to the gas station pump and brings one of the nozzles over to the other side of the gas tank.  Why, you might ask?  So that when a paying customer drives up, they foot the bill, even though the gas is being pumped into someone else’s car!  You may drive away with an empty tank and light on funds.  As ingenious and simple as this scam is, it has fooled hundreds of folks already.  However, it amounts to nothing less than theft.

When property, even gasoline, has been taken, it is considered theft by California law (‘petty theft’ or ‘grand theft’ depending on whether the property taken was valued at under or over $950).  California Penal Code 484 and 459.5 defines theft very simply:  taking someone else’s property without their permission.  While it may seem odd to think of gasoline as a possession, under the law it is no different than any other property.  Penalties for petty theft, which is what these nozzle switch scammers would be accused of in each instance, include up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

However, if you’ve been taken in by this scam already, then there is little hope of ever seeing your funds (or gasoline!) returned.  Sometimes a gas station clerk or owner will reimburse you for the price of the gas you lost, but others are not as sympathetic.  Certainly, law enforcement agents have no way of knowing who stole your gas, even gas station security cameras often make it difficult to see the license plates of these thieves.  The best protection for consumers is to be aware, if something looks out of place at the pump, its best to take a good look around before authorizing a purchase.

2 Arrested for Grand Theft Scam Against Elderly Citizens (CA Penal Code 487)

Two individuals, a man and his female accomplice, have recently been arrested in Santa Clara County for their parts in a confidence scheme involving elderly drivers.  Allegations state that the pair would step behind the vehicle of an elderly person as the older driver was backing up, make a loud thumping noise on the back of the vehicle, and then claim to have been injured.  The insurance money the two collected totals, police say, upwards of $18,000.  In fact, it was the insurance company that was curious about several different claims.  They have both been charged with 16 and 10 felonies, separately, including grand theft.

According to California Insurance Code 1871, it is unlawful for an individual to make false or fraudulent claims when dealing with insurance companies.  Penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and up to $150,000 in fines.  Of course, these are just the penalties under the Insurance Code; they do not include consequences that arise from violations of the criminal code, like charges of felony grand theft (CA Penal Code 487).

Pursuant to 487 of the California Penal Code, grand theft is defined as the unlawful taking of another person’s property that is valued at or above the sum of $950.00.  Grand theft is, however, a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors study the facts of a particular case and then determine whether they will treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  Because the individuals above took monies over the amount of $950, they may each face up to 3 years in state prison for each felony grand theft charge.

 

Santa Rosa Campus Officer Charged with Grand Theft (CA Penal Code 487)

This story is like something inspired by the 1967 film,  “Cool Hand Luke,” although Luke was merely charged with destruction of property, not theft or embezzlement.  In this case, a woman has been sentenced to a 9-month term in jail for her part as an accessory in her husband’s crime.  Evidently, the husband (38) used his job as a campus police officer to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from Santa Rosa Junior College parking meters.  He pled guilty to 11 counts of possession of stolen property and to charges of grand theft (CA Penal Code 487) last April.

This woman’s story should remind citizens of the state of California that the law considers any person who has assisted or aided another individual who has committed a felony, they may be charged under CA Penal Code 32 “Accessory After the Fact.”  But, what does being an ‘accessory after the fact’ really entail?  Who could be considered guilty of this crime and under what circumstances?

California law dictates that hiding a known criminal, assisting them in fleeing law enforcement officials, getting rid of evidence for a known perpetrator, or lying to the police are all actions that could expose you to having committed a violation CA PC 32.  Cases of this kind are ‘wobblers,’ meaning that it is up to the team of prosecutors involved to determine whether or not your crime should be treated as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  If you are convicted of felony ‘accessory after the fact,’ you may plan to spend up to 3 years in state prison.  However, if (like the woman above), the charge is considered to rise only to the level of a misdemeanor, then you may expect to spend up to 1 year in county jail.

 

Recipes Stolen From San Francisco Bakery (CA Penal Code 487)

Police assigned to the robbery of this Tenderloin bakery remain stumped.  The owner of Mr. Holmes Bake house woke one day to a call from an employee alerting him to the fact that their binders full of recipes had been completely emptied.  This case, as it turns out, is just as unique as the now famous Mr. Holmes Bake house ‘Cruffin’ an in-house made mixture of a croissant and a muffin.  Local law enforcement plan to treat the crime just as they would handle any other theft, especially considering that the recipes are valuable intellectual property.  For those of you who live in the Bay area who are concerned that Mr. Holmes Bake house will no longer be able to operate, don’t worry, pastry chef Ry Stephen and his business partner Aaron Caddel say that they still retain backup copies of all the recipes and will be able to continue to conduct business.

In California, theft of items or property valued at less than $950 is considered ‘petty theft;’ the theft of items valued over $950 is considered ‘grand theft’ (CA Penal Code 487)  So, depending on the estimated value of the recipes, whoever stole them could find themselves in a pretty big legal pickle (CA Penal Code 484).  Petty theft is considered a misdemeanor in California and those convicted on such a charge could face up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  In this particular case, depending on how the recipes were actually acquired, burglary charges could also apply and these could mean more serious penalties and fines.

 

Jewel Thief Arrested in San Francisco for Probation Violation of Prior Grand Theft Charges (CA Penal Code 487)

 You might not notice her, the 84-year-old woman, casually dressed and milling about the jewelry section of a department store.  What you would not immediately realize, unless you’d see the lengthy documentary concerning her lengthy criminal career, is that she is a professional jewel thief, one of the best in the world.  Recently, she was released from prison and was arrested again for trespassing in a department store in San Francisco.  How was she caught, you may ask?  The clerk, who’d seen the numerous news reports and the documentary, recognized her.  It is reported that, upon being asked if she was the famous jewel thief on the news, the elderly lady simply winked.

The woman in the above-mentioned story was on probation for having stolen a 10-karat diamond ring from Cartier.  Because of the value of the ring, it was considered burglary and grand theft.  In the state of California, burglary and theft are considered two separate crimes.  Burglary (CA Penal Code 459) is considered to have occurred when a person enters into a building or other structure intending to take property that does not belong to them.  This particular crime is a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it could be treated either as a felony or as a misdemeanor, depending on the specific facts of the crime and the past criminal record of the person who has allegedly committed it.

When a burglary is committed in any structure that is not considered residential (like a department store or a place of business), then it is considered ‘second degree burglary.’  If convicted of a misdemeanor offense of this kind, you could spend up to 1 year in county jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines.  However, if the value of the property stolen exceeds $950, then it will likely be considered a felony offense; then, you can expect to spend up to 3 years in county jail and, perhaps, a $10,000 fine.

The crime of ‘grand theft,’ however, might also apply, depending on the circumstances (CA Penal Code 487).  This crime is also a wobbler:  a misdemeanor grand theft conviction could mean 1 year in county jail and a felony violation of the same law could mean up to 3 years in county jail.