Wine Thieves May Face Charges of Grand Theft (CA Penal Code 487)

Several high-end Bay area restaurants and shops like the French Laundry, Plumed Horse, Bouchée and Fine Wines International have been targeted for their stocks of expensive and rare wines.  In particular, the thefts seem to have included a particularly difficult to find catch, the Domaine del la Romanée-Conti (more commonly known as DRC) from the Burgundy region of France; there are several different permutations of this wine, including the Grand Cru.  It seems that there are many wine collectors and other wealthy individuals who will pay large amounts of money for these particular wines, and this is the driving force behind the wine theft industry in the Bay area and around the world.

While the combined value of the wines stolen certainly reaches the required amount for law enforcement officials to consider them to be victims of ‘grand theft’ (CA Penal Code 487), wherein the value of stolen property must be at or over $950, some reports claim that the police consider the pilfering of wine a very low priority due to the recent passage of Prop 47 this past November.  Stealing wine falls into the category of a ‘property crime’ and a nonviolent one at that.  After Prop 47, most criminal activity of this sort has now been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor charge (unless there are mitigating circumstances arising from the accused individual’s criminal record).  Among the crimes reduced to a misdemeanor are (where the value does not surpass $950):  the personal use of the majority of illegal drugs, writing bad checks, forgery, shoplifting, and, of course, grand theft charges.


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