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.