Though crimes of theft and larceny may not seem as significant as murder, kidnapping or assault, these offenses are taken very seriously by law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts.
Misdemeanors and Felonies
In California, theft crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. This depends entirely on the amount stolen and the criminal history of the person being charged.
Thefts of property or money valued under $400 are categorized as misdemeanors. These are not small crimes in the eyes of the law, however.
For one thing, if the accused is convicted, penalties can include incarceration for up to six months, court fines, restitution to the victim, and even an order to pay back law enforcement for costs they incurred investigating the theft.
For another, being convicted of one misdemeanor theft can mean any future theft charge is classified as a felony – with significantly more serious penalties and consequences. It is crucial, then, to mount an aggressive defense against any accusation of theft, because future charges will be much worse if there is a previous conviction.
Felony thefts involve the unlawful taking of property or money valued at more than $400. As noted above, however, any previous conviction for theft can mean an automatic felony charge for any future theft, regardless of the monetary value.
Penalties for a felony theft conviction can include very long prison sentences, and like misdemeanors, large court fines, and restitution to the victim and the police for the cost of investigating the crime and supervision while in custody. The severity of the punishment increases with each conviction.
Types of Theft Crimes
There are many different kinds of theft crimes defined by California law. They include:
- Armed robbery
- Credit card fraud
- Grand theft, including grand theft auto
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Petty theft, such as shoplifting
- Receiving stolen goods
If a firearm or other weapon is involved, the stakes are higher and additional charges can be brought.
When Facing Theft Charges, Only Talk to Your Lawyer
If you are charged with theft of any kind – misdemeanor or felony – do not make the mistake of talking to law enforcement without hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. In fact, you shouldn’t speak to anyone about your case. You never know who’s listening, and anything you say can be used later in court.
Talking to law enforcement without a lawyer is gambling with your future. Playing it safe and smart could be the difference between the charges being dropped or a prosecution that leads to a conviction and jail time. Also, if you have any previous theft convictions, you are likely looking at a felony charge, regardless of the seriousness of your offense. This is not the time to go it alone, or choose inexperienced counsel or an attorney who doesn’t concentrate on criminal defense matters.
Hire Experienced, Dedicated Lawyers to Fight Your Theft Charge
At Summit Defense, our lawyers have handled countless theft cases. We understand what’s at stake for our clients, and work tirelessly to protect their rights.
In any theft case, it is crucial to hire a criminal defense team who knows the local system. Our lawyers have spent their careers working in the Bay Area. They are known and respected by law enforcement, prosecutors, court officials, and judges for their legal skills and professionalism.
One of our lawyers is a former police officer, and three others are former district attorneys. That means they know how theft cases are investigated, prosecuted and tried, and understand the strategies and approaches the other side will take in pursuing a conviction.
We also know how to identify the weak points of the prosecution’s case and where investigators are likely to make errors. We draw from our extensive knowledge in every theft case we handle.
You can also check out descriptions of recent cases we have worked on to get a sense of our approach and skill in this area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get arrested for shoplifting days after the incident?
A petty theft arrest usually begins with a citation as opposed to formal booking. In cases where an individual is not cited on scene, law enforcement will usually forward the case to the District Attorney for filing decision.
Can you be arrested for shoplifting after leaving the store?
Yes. You location at the time of arrest is not relevant to evidence pointing to a commission of the crime alleged.
What happens if you get arrested for shoplifting?
Shoplifting usually results in issuance of a citation, not a formal arrest. Often the citation will require a formal booking process to be completed prior to the initial court date.
Can you get arrested for identity theft?
Yes. Identity theft is a serious crime and is usually charged as a felony as the amount of loss usually exceeds $950.
Can I get arrested at home for petty theft?
Yes. Your location is not relevant for the purpose of arrest. Assuming there is an arrest warrant, the police can detain and arrest you anywhere.