Stockton: iPhone Thief May Face Charges of Petty Theft (CA Penal Code 484, 488 and 459.5)

On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites, ‘selfies’ (photos one takes of oneself with one’s phone) are commonplace.  However, the age of social media may have also, and inadvertently, ushered in something else, the technologically challenged thief.  Police in the Stockton area are currently working to identify the alleged thief of an iPhone.  How did they determine who the thief might be?  He’d taken several selfies with the phone and, apparently, was not aware that he was simultaneously uploading them to the original owner’s cloud storage.  Similar cases have occurred in which selfies were taken by a thief with a cellular phone and then posted to their Instagram account.  When the phone was found in a nearby dumpster, the Instagram account was still open, allowing law enforcement officials to quickly identify and arrest the culprit.

According to California law, if you steal a cellphone or other such device, you may be in for more trouble than it’s worth.  In August of this year, Senate Bill 962 was signed into law, a bill that forces smartphone manufacturers to add what is known as a “kill switch” to each phone sold after July of 2015.  This “kills switch” would enable owners of smartphones to completely disable their devices after discovering they have been stolen.  Some consumers and consumer advocate groups, however, believe that this is not an appropriate solution.

The fact remains, however, that if you take property that is not yours and it is valued at less than $950 (which most smartphones and cell phones are), then you may face charges of petty theft (CA Penal Code 484, 488 and 459.5).  This is a misdemeanor charge in California and may result in a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in county jail.