(California Penal Code §§ 459 P.C., 459.5(a) P.C., 484 P.C., 484(a) P.C., 487 P.C., 487(d)(1) P.C., 489 P.C., 530.5 P.C., 666 P.C., et seq.)
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm has defended hundreds of clients charged with theft crimes, with the following being the most common types we handle: burglary, identity theft, grand theft, petty theft, shoplifting, and receiving stolen property.
Burglary (California Penal Code section 459 P.C.)
If you break into someone’s home or any commercial property for the purpose of committing any crime therein (and not just to steal something), then you can be arrested, prosecuted, tried, and convicted of burglary.
But it’s important to keep in mind that burglary covers a wide variety of crimes, ranging from misdemeanors for, say, petty theft, all the way up to felony-strike offenses (if, for example, there are people present in the home during the burglary). Strikes are violent-felony convictions under California Penal Code section 667 P.C., a.k.a. the “Three Strikes Law”. Thus, for example, you can be charged with a felony-strike even if no one inside the residence was harmed (such as during a home-invasion robbery).
Further, these crimes are subdivided into the following categories: residential burglary (first degree), commercial burglary (second degree), and automobile burglary.
If a theft is allegedly involved, then the monetary value of the item allegedly stolen determines whether you will be charged with burglary as opposed to a lesser offense such as shoplifting or petty theft. You can only be charged with burglary if you stole more than nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950).
Also keep in mind that you can be charged with burglary for illegal entering virtually any type of structure, including boats and airplanes. In addition, the structure need not even be locked when you enter so long as you did so with an illegal purpose in mind. (The exception is automobile burglary, which does require that the vehicle be locked at the time of illegal entry.)
Nor do you need to completely enter the residential or commercial structure – you can be convicted even if you only, say, stuck your hand through an open window to steal a purse. Thus, the unlawful entry can be momentary.
Further, you can be convicted of burglary even if you didn’t actually steal anything or commit any other crime in the dwelling or structure – all that is required is that you intended to do so.
Fortunately, burglaries are so-called “wobblers”, i.e., offenses that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the specific facts of each case. The District Attorney’s Office has the power to charge any non-strike burglary as such.
Examples of Misdemeanor Burglary Charges
At the end of June 2019, Long Beach PD arrested local resident Carlo Navarro and charged him with two felonies – for second-degree commercial burglary and vandalism resulting in more than four hundred dollars’ worth of damage – and one misdemeanor for possessing burglary tools. LBPD claimed that Navarro had unsuccessfully attempted to burglarize a local vape store, but had only gotten as far as smashing the business’ window before he was arrested. If convicted of all three charges and the sentencing judge orders that the three sentences run consecutively, then Navarro would have conceivably faced two-and-a-half years in prison. However, shortly after the arrest, the DA’s Office downgraded the two felony charges to misdemeanors, then referred the case for possible prosecution to the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office.
In early January 2020, Palo Alto PD arrested David M. Foster, Salvador Rodriguez, and David Taufur (who were all local residents and either eighteen or nineteen years old). According to PAPD, a resident saw them smashing in widows of parked vehicles, watched them drive off in their car, then called Nine-One-One. Police claimed they spotted the suspects’ car, pulled them over, searched the interior, and discovered burglary tools, indicia of burglaries, and things that had been allegedly taken from the burglarized vehicles. The three men were charged with three misdemeanors each: burglarizing an automobile, vandalism, and possessing burglary tools. Two seventeen-year-old boys were also detained because they had allegedly been with the three men in their vehicle. However, the juveniles were allowed to be picked up by their legal guardians at the station.
In April 2016, according to the LAPD, North Hollywood resident Dawn Belmonte used a master postal key to open a locked exterior door to a West LA apartment complex, entered the below-ground garage, and stole a mountain bike. Somehow police traced this incident to Belmonte, whose residence they raided pursuant to a search warrant in late June 2016. They allegedly discovered evidence relating to that incident, and so arrested and charged him with several misdemeanors, including second-degree burglary.
Examples of Felony Burglary Charges
From October 2008 through August 2009, a group of affluent teenagers from Calabasas allegedly pulled off as many as fifty local residential burglaries and stole more than $3 million in cash and personal items. The group, which became infamously known as the “Bling Ring”, specialized in burglarizing the homes of celebrities, including celebutante Paris Hilton, whose house they admittedly hit on at least three separate occasions, as well as actor Orlando Bloom and socialites Lyndsay Lohan and Kourtney Kardashian. One of the admitted ringleaders, Nicholas Prugo, eventually pled no contest to three counts of first-degree residential burglary (a felony) and received two years in state prison, among other terms and conditions. Admitted second-in-charge Alexis Neiers also pled no contest to one count of the same and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, three years’ probation, and $600,000 in restitution to Bloom. Admitted ringleader Rachel Lee did the same but received four years in state prison. So, too, did admitted ring member Diana Tamayo, though she only received three years of formal probation and 60 hours of volunteer work.
In late January 2013, actor Taye Diggs (network TV series Private Practice) had just returned home from presenting an award at the SAG Awards when he allegedly startled a burglar rummaging inside his garage. According to LAPD, the burglar dashed out of the house and ran several blocks down the street in Studio City before he was pounced upon by Diggs, who held him until police arrived to make the arrest. The alleged burglar, Hassan Juma, was booked on a felony charge of first-degree residential burglary.
In mid-August 2019, Beverly Hills residents Jason E. Yaselli and Benjamin E. Ackerman were arrested and charged with more than four-dozen felony charges – each allegedly relating to a string of burglaries involving more than a dozen mansions of famous people (including those of singer Usher, musician Adam Lambert, and former NFL star Shaun Phillips) over a three-year period on the West Side. (Yaselli and Ackerman were both arrested over the following several days.) The specific charges for each included fourteen counts of first-degree residential burglary (including two counts with the victim present, which are strike offenses), and a single count of conspiracy. Aside from the two strikes, Yaselli and Ackerman were facing a third sentencing enhancement for allegedly stealing more than half-a-million dollars’ worth of goods from the homes. According to the DA’s Office, Yaselli was a Realtor who would attend open houses during which he would scope out the potential target for his accomplice, Ackerman, to burglarize later. LAPD claimed they were able to narrow their investigation after discovering that Yaselli had signed his own name on the visitor logs of some, if not most, of the targeted homes. If convicted of all charges, the defendants each could be sentenced to more than three decades in prison.
Defense Strategies to Burglary Charges
Defenses to burglary are fairly straightforward but do require a skillful presentation to the court. As defense counsel, assuming we’re able to, we could argue that our client never had any intention of stealing anything inside the structure, or committing any other crime inside, before he or she entered it. Alternatively, we coud argue that the intent, if any, was not formed until after he or she entered the structure and, therefore, should charged with a lesser offense (such as trespassing).
Or, if it’s appropriate, we might even argue that the value of the property allegedly taken was less than the statutory minimum.
With some luck, we might even be able to claim that no part of our client’s body ever entered the structure. Or perhaps he or she had lawfully-obtained consent to enter the premises.
Or, in the case of automobile burglary, our client may have legitimately believed he or she was retrieving an item in the vehicle that he or she reasonably believed was his or hers and, therefore, at most he or she should be charged with a lower offense like vandalism. This is known as a “claim of right” defense, and can also apply to residential and commercial burglaries.
Finally, there are a number of Constitutional defenses that can be successfully asserted if the facts support them, such as moving the court to exclude certain evidence because it was illegally obtained by the police.
See California Penal Code section 459 P.C.; see also Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 1700.
What to Expect if You are Convicted of Burglary
Assuming there are no other enhancements (such as strikes), if you are convicted of first-degree felony burglary (residential), you will be sentenced to two, four, or six years in a state penitentiary, depending on your situation.
If you are sentenced for second-degree felony burglary (commercial) , you can expect a sentence of sixteen months, two years, or three years in prison.
Otherwise, if you are convicted of second-degree misdemeanor burglary, you face, at most, twelve months in the county jail.
As long as you don’t have to serve prison time as part of your burglary-conviction sentence, then you may also receive three or five years of probation. And, of course, there is the typical payment order for court fines, costs, and victim restitution (if applicable), as well as possible counseling and community service the judge may require you to complete.
See California Penal Code sections 461 P.C. and 1170(h) P.C.
Identity Theft (California Penal Code § 530.5)
If you use another person’s name and/or other personal identification information to obtain proceeds from fraud or another financial-related crime (or basically for any other crime), then you will be charged with identity theft. For clarification, you must have formed the intent to commit the fraud or other crime either before or at the moment you took the ID info.
Please remember that if you are charged with identity theft, you will almost certainly be simultaneously prosecuted for a number of other related crimes – such as grand theft, forgery, credit-card fraud, and so forth.
And by personal ID info, we are referring to possession of the following, any of which would suffice to land you in jail on an ID theft charge:
- The victim’s complete legal name (first name, middle name [if any], and surname);
- Social Security number;
- Residence address;
- Telephone number;
- Date of birth;
- Credit card number;
- Driver’s license number;
- Health insurance info;
- Employment info;
- Place of birth.
You can also be charged with identity-theft crimes if you somehow manage to access another person’s social media account(s) and pretend to be them – even without the otherwise intending to commit some other illegal act. The same goes if you, instead, altered the profiles and other information, as well as the images, contained in the victim’s social media accounts.
And if you identify yourself as another actual person to a law enforcement officer, agent, or official, you’ll not only be charged with providing false info to him or her, but identity theft as well. The latter charge will also apply if you use another’s personal details to open a credit-card account or department-store charge account.
Depending on the monetary value of the funds or property at stake, as well as other considerations, identity theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. For example, if you have an extensive record for financial-crime convictions, or even a previous ID theft conviction, you will almost certainly be charged with a felony. Similarly, if you sold or merely gave someone’s personal ID info to a third party, knowing that this party was going to use it to commit a crime, then you will virtually be guaranteed a felony prosecution. The number of stolen IDs in your possession at the time of your arrest will also affect the prosecutor’s decision. Ten or more IDs found in your possession will ensure a felony charge.
ID theft can also be charged as a federal crime – again, depending on the circumstances. This will usually occur as a related charge, such as where the FBI was already investigating you for money laundering, wire fraud, or crimes affecting interstate commerce. Nevertheless, ID theft in and of itself could land you in federal prison for years. So, too, would stealing or otherwise receiving without authorization another’s mail (although, realistically, you’d be prosecuted under state jurisdiction).
Examples of Identity Theft
In mid-October 2019, Vacaville (Solano County in NorCal) PD arrested Sacramento residents Doug Brown, Samantha Krauss, and Anthony Solis for felony identity theft after allegedly finding them in a stolen moving ran with trash bags stuffed with the victims’ personal ID info and documentation. The trio were charged with additional felonies for conspiracy to commit ID theft, grand theft auto, and so forth. The arrests were allegedly preceded by a call from a concerned neighbor who noticed the suspects furtively examining cars parked behind a hotel. According to police, the trio had embarked on a vehicle-burglary spree all over the state and even into the Pacific Northwest. Thus, it is likely that the trio could eventually be extradited to face charges in at least one other state.
In late December 2019, Camarillo PD in Ventura County arrested (in Bakersfield) and charged Christopher L. Wilson with two counts of felony identity theft, a single count of ID theft with a prior ID-theft conviction, third-degree vehicle burglary (a felony), and two misdemeanor counts of illegally using a credit card. The arrest followed a one-month-long investigation into a series of car break-ins by someone who had shattered windows to gain entry. Authorities claimed that Wilson was identified as the suspect after credit cards stolen from purses in at least one of the burglarized vehicles were used to purchase various retail merchandise. Prosecutors would likely seek significant prison time as Wilson had allegedly violated his probation stemming from prior convictions for narcotics and other theft-related crimes. Even further incriminating, if true, was the detectives’ allegation that when they arrested Wilson in a motel, they found in his room numerous indicia that he was running an ID-theft workshop, including multiple printers, blank credit cards, blank personal checks, and counterfeit license plates & DMV registration stickers. Wilson was also suspected in committing a long string of ID-theft crimes throughout SoCal.
In late October 2019, law enforcement agents working for and with the Calif. Dept. of Insurance arrested and charged Richard Valdriz, a licensed insurance agent, with more than a dozen felonies, including ID theft, forgery, and grand theft. According to the DOI, Valdriz had been under investigation for several months after he allegedly used the personal ID info of insurance clients, and forged their electronic signatures, to buy new car-insurance policies without their knowledge or approval. Investigators claimed he earned almost $5,000 in fraudulent commissions. If convicted, in addition to various criminal penalties, Valdriz will almost certainly have his insurance-agent’s license revoked.
How Do You Defend Against an Identity Theft Charge?
ID theft cases often come down to whether the defendant had actual or implied consent from the putative victim to use or transfer his or her personal ID info. This is particularly true where financial crimes or transactions are involved, as well as where the defendant and putative victim are work colleagues or otherwise have access to such information.
Also, you may have a legitimate defense that you did not willfully acquire the supposed victim’s personal data – in other words, you mistakenly, inadvertently or otherwise accidentally did so. For instance, one of your friends may have stolen the victim’s documentation and stashed it in your basement for safe keeping but without your knowledge, much less approval. But when your cleaning lady found the paperwork, she called the police on you.
Even if there is overwhelming evidence that you obtained the data or documentation without the owner’s consent, the prosecutor still needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did so with the specific intent to commit a crime. Thus, if you, for example, snatched your ex-husband’s tax returns while visiting him for the purpose of confirming that he was cheating you on your alimony, you would not be criminally culpable for identity theft. Again, that’s because you took the info for a legal purpose.
If you did ultimately use the information for an unlawful purpose, you can still provide evidence (including your own testimony) that you only formulated that intent after you took the info. Although you could still be charged with other crimes, they could be significantly less serious than ID theft.
Sources: Pen. Code § 530.5 PC & CALCRIM jury instruction 2040.
If You are Convicted of Identity Theft…
Assuming it’s a felony conviction and the judge orders you to go to prison, he’ll hand down a sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six-month sentence. A misdemeanor ID theft conviction, by contrast, will either get you zero jail time or a maximum of twelve months in the county lock-up.
If the judge orders probation – either instead of a non-prison jail sentence or in addition to it, you’ll get either three or five years in prison.
Civil fines will also be ordered – $1,000 for misdemeanors and $10,000 for felonies. You may also be required to do a certain number of community service hours, complete counseling programs, and pay restitution.
Keep in mind than an ID theft conviction can result in long prison sentences. For example, in late July 2019, Ms. Humadai Humadai received more than a decade in prison after being convicted of an ID-theft string in Davis (Yolo County in NorCal), that lasted more than twenty-four months and resulted in the loss to victims of almost a quarter-million dollars. She had pled no contest to almost a dozen counts of felony ID theft and a single count of grand theft,. According to authorities, over the course of almost two-and-a-half years (2014 through 2016), she used the personal ID info of half-a-dozen Davis residents to open up bank accounts and e-mail addresses to obtain loans that each amounted to more than $10,000.
Grand Theft (California Penal Code §§ 484 P.C., 487 P.C., 487(d)(1) P.C., 489 P.C.)
Grand theft – also known as grand larceny -- is essentially a catch-all crime that encompasses any theft valued above $950.00. (If it’s less, you’ll be charged with petty theft or shoplifting, i.e., petty larceny.) The theft can involve virtually anything – money, property (real or personal), and even services.
For example, in early November 2014, LAPD arrested comic actor Andy Dick after he allegedly stole a gold chain of a man in Hollywood that was worth one thousand dollars. As a result, Dick was charged with felony grand theft.
As another example, if you run out on a hotel bill to the tune of, say, a thousand dollars, then you can expect to be charged with grand theft. But keep in mind that regardless of its value, if you steal any type of firearm, you will still be charged with felony grand larceny (section 487 P.C.).
If the stolen item is a vehicle, then the specific charge would be grand theft auto, commonly referred to as GTA (assuming, again, that it’s worth more than nine hundred and fifty dollars).
Finally, depending on the particulars of the case, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony – this decision is left entirely to the prosecuting attorney in charge.
Examples of Grand Theft
In late January 2011, LAPD arrested actress/socialite Lyndsay Lohan and charged her with felony grand theft after she allegedly stole a piece of jewelry worth almost $3,000 from a Venice Beach boutique. The store clerk allegedly reported the necklace missing to the LAPD. In mid-May 2011, she pled no contest to misdemeanor grand theft, and was ordered by the judge to serve one hundred and twenty days in county jail, complete almost 500 hours of volunteer work, and seek mental-health/drug treatment.
In mid-March 2019, detectives from LAPD’s theft/fraud unit arrested Studio City resident Edward Rostohar and charged him with grand theft for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars. According to police, he had exploited his executive-level position at an LA bank to endorse the bank’s own business checks to himself, and which he later deposited into and cashed from his own account. The total amount of the checks was allegedly estimated to be in the millions. Because of the amount of money involved, as well as the lengthy duration of the alleged scheme, if convicted, he would likely be sentenced to at least several years in prison.
In February 2016, state DOI agents arrested LA resident Dwen Curry and charged him with felony attempted grand theft and felony ID theft. Following his conviction, at his mid-March 2016 sentencing hearing, he was ordered to serve thirty-six months’ incarceration in prison. According to the DOI, Curry had misappropriated the identities of multiple individuals, which he used in an attempt to take deductions from their insurance annuity policies. They claimed that suspicion fell on Curry after he allegedly made an unauthorized address change for an annuity holder so that Curry instead would receive two annuity checks totaling almost $40,000.
Successful Defenses to Grand Theft Charges
The first thing the prosecutor must prove in order to secure your conviction for grand theft is that you specifically intended to permanently deprive the rightful owner of his or her money, property, or services. So even if you formulated this intent afterwards, you would not criminally culpable under this statute. Therefore, you’ll want to present credible evidence that at the time of the alleged theft, you had no such intent.
For example, if you can show proof that you reasonably believed that you were legally entitled to the subject item, or that you only intended to borrow it, then you would have a viable “claim of right” defense. Similarly, if you had removed the funds or objects accidentally, then you obviously lacked the requisite state of mind under this code.
You might also be able to defeat this charge if you can convince a judge and/or jury that the property was actually worth less than the statutory minimum, which could require the use of an expert witness. One example would be if you pilfered an antique Rolex watch from a jeweler who claimed the loss at $3,000, which was his retail price. However, you could prove that but for his outrageous and unrealistic markup, the same exact timepiece would go for $900, as evidenced by Craigslist ads placed by private sellers. You could subpoena the jeweler’s insurance paperwork to show that he only received $900 – the fair market value – from his claim instead of $3,000. Even if this defense works, you’ll still face a misdemeanor petty theft charge.
Better yet, evidence that you had previously obtained lawful consent from the item’s owner will almost certainly devastate the prosecution’s case. So, too, will the fact that you actually owned or otherwise legally possessed or were otherwise legally entitled the funds or property.
Additional defenses also include the assertion that you never actually took, moved, or transferred the allegedly pilfered funds or item(s); that they were never in your control or possession; or that you did not deprive (or never intended to deprive – either before or during the alleged crime) the actual owner of the majority of the property’s value.
Sources: California Penal Code 487 P.C., et seq. & CALCRIM §§ 1800, 1801.
Consequences of a Grand-Theft Conviction
If it’s a felony, you’ll receive a prison sentence of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months. If it’s a misdemeanor, if you’re required to serve time, it’ll be no more than twelve months in jail.
A three or five-year probationary period will also be handed down, assuming you are not required to serve time in prison (which makes you ineligible for probation).
If you are convicted of stealing from a business or some other commercial establishment, you’ll receive a permanent restraining order to keep away from the establishment.
There are also fines to consider, possible restitution and/or community service, and even counseling.
A felony or misdemeanor conviction can also jeopardize any professional license you hold or even your immigration status, if applicable, because grand theft is what’s known as a crime of moral turpitude. As a matter of course, such a conviction would also preclude you from many, if not most, employment opportunities, including with federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as military service.
California Penal Code 487 P.C., 489 P.C.
Petty Theft/Shoplifting (California Penal Code § 484(a) P.C., 459.5(a) P.C., 666 P.C.)
If you steal anything, including money, that is valued at nine hundred and fifty dollars or less, then you can be prosecuted for petty theft, which is charged as a misdemeanor in California. Anything above that amount will typically result in a grand theft or related charge like burglary.
If the item you allegedly stole or attempted to steal was taken from a business or other commercial establishment, you will be charged with shoplifting.
If you have prior theft-related crimes on your record, then the Deputy District Attorney prosecuting you can decide to charge you with a felony; otherwise, these crimes are charged as misdemeanors.
Keep in mind that if you have previous convictions for petty theft or shoplifting, a new prosecution for the same crime can result in the DA filing felony charges against you.
Examples of Shoplifting
The most famous shoplifting arrest in American history occurred in mid-=December 2001, when Beverly Hills PD arrested actress Winona Ryder, a.k.a. Winona L. Horowitz (Netflix’s series Stranger Things) for allegedly pilfering more than five thousand dollars’ worth of designer clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue. The DA’s Office – which was apparently trying to make an example of her – charged her with two felonies (second-degree commercial burglary and grand theft) and two misdemeanors (for shoplifting and vandalism – for allegedly damaging the security mechanisms on the stolen clothing items). She hired a high-profile attorney but even he wasn’t able to convince the DA’s Office to knock the felonies down – for example, from felony grand theft to misdemeanor grand theft. She was ultimately convicted of felony grand theft and the two misdemeanors at trial, but was found not guilty of second-degree burglary. She received three years of formal probation, ordered to perform almost five hundred hours of volunteer work, pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution, and seek professional mental-health and substance-abuse help.
In the summer of 2019, Oakland PD began investigating three locals (all sisters) – Jessenia, Jessica, and Norma Rodriguez – for allegedly operating a large-scale, sophisticated shoplifting ring that had been operating in the Bay Area for over twelve months. In mid-December 2019, OPD arrested all three of them. According to the Alameda County DA’s Office, the three women employed a large network of skilled shoplifters to go to certain low-end department stores and retail locations to steal pre-ordered merchandise which the suspects sold out of their own residences or online. Police executed search and arrest warrants at their homes and allegedly found more than three hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stolen merchandise. One month later, they were each charged with the following three felonies: conspiracy to commit commercial burglary, operating a retail theft group, and receipt of stolen property. Two weeks later, the three women were formally charged. According to authorities, all three accepted responsibility and would be entering guilty or no-contest pleas.
In late January 2020, a San Rafael (Marin County) PD officer allegedly responded to a shoplifting complaint from a woman’s boutique at a local shopping mall, and recognized the suspect, Harmonie Tayler, and her vehicle as matching the descriptions of a woman and SUV involved in a recent shoplifting incident at another local mall. The patrol officer allegedly followed Tayler in her SUV for a while before pulling her over and spotting in plain view merchandise stolen from the boutique. Tayler allegedly provided him false identification and information about her true name. After the officer searched her car, he allegedly found almost $6,000 in shoplifted goods, including numerous items with security tags still attached. She was arrested and charged with several felonies, including commercial burglary and possession of stolen property.
Defending Against a Petty Theft or Shoplifting Charge
Under either crime, the prosecutor in charge of your case must be able to prove to the jury that you had the specific mindset (intent) to steal the item(s) at issue. But perhaps that had not been your intent at all. Many, if not most, people have had at least one experience at a supermarket or Target where they almost walked out without paying for something simply because they were thinking about other things. Some people actually do innocently walk out of a store with an item when they are confronted by security, so any evidence you can provide that counters the specific-intent allegation will boost your defense.
The prosecutor must also prove that the property or funds allegedly taken actually belonged to another person. Thus, any evidence that you had the owner’s express or implied permission to use the money or property, or that you otherwise were reasonable to believe you had such authorization, or even that you believed you owned or were owed the funds or property by the supposed victim, will go a long way towards defeating this required element of the charge.
Next, the prosecuting attorney must prove that you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the funds or property, so any evidence that you were merely borrowing it or otherwise intended to return it could defeat the case. (Alternatively, the prosecutor can try to prove that you intended to deprive the owner for such a significant period of time as to deprive him or her of a major part of its value, or to deprive the majority of the enjoyment the owner otherwise would have derived from it. This is a factual determination to be made by the jury.)
For example, if the evidence permits, you could argue that the money you allegedly transferred from your company’s primary bank account was, in fact, wired by you to a different account that also belonged to the company, and which you did not withdraw – nor did you ever intend to do so. Thus, if you had done so from mistake or because you had been instructed to make the transfer by a superior, then you would have a complete defense.
Sources: California Penal Code 484(a) P.C. & CALCRIM 1800 & 1801.
What If You’re Convicted of Petty Theft or Shoplifting
Both misdemeanor petty theft and shoplifting convictions will expose you to no more than six months in county jail (assuming the judge requires you to serve jail time). The judge will almost certainly order you to complete a probationary period of one-to-three years (formal or informal, depending on the facts). Felony convictions for either crime will entail three or five years of probation.
In addition, you’ll be required to pay restitution, as well as possible community service and/or counseling. With misdemeanor shoplifting, you’ll also be subject to a $1,000 fine.
If you are convicted of felony petty theft, however, you may have to serve a year or more in state prison – again, depending on your situation and criminal history.
Also, even if the conviction is for a misdemeanor, it’s still considered a crime of moral turpitude, which could have detrimental consequences for your employment and educational opportunities, a professional license status, and immigration or military status (if applicable).
Ninaz Saffari’s Approach to Petty Theft and Shoplifting Cases
For her clients who have no prior convictions for the same offense(s), Ninaz always makes every possible effort to obtain diversion. Diversion is typically a twelve or eighteen-month program that consists of weekly counseling, among other requirements, such as community service. Assuming all conditions are satisfactorily completed, the judge will then dismiss the case.
Receiving Stolen Property (California Penal Code § 496(a) P.C.)
If you allegedly received property that you knew or had reason to believe was stolen, you could be prosecuted for receiving stolen property – a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the DA’s discretion, but usually a felony if the value exceeds nine hundred and fifty dollars.
If you allegedly received the property as a result of extortion on your part, you could also be convicted for receiving stolen property, and because of the serious nature of the underlying offense, would likely be charged with a felony.
Finally, this charge would apply if you “aided and abetted” (assisted) in any way the sale, transfer, transportation, storage, and/or concealment of property you knew or believed was stolen or otherwise derived from theft or extortion.
To secure a conviction, the prosecutor need not even prove that you received the stolen property for personal gain. For example, you may have simply been doing a favor for a friend by letting him park his car in your driveway overnight – despite your strong suspicion that it contained stolen musical equipment. All the Assistant DA needs to do is prove that you had control over the area in which the stolen items were stored – this is known as “constructive possession”.
Receiving stolen property is typically charged with other theft-related crimes, such as burglary, forgery, and grand theft. Bu a felony conviction can result in serious time. The federal government, for example, considers the receipt of stolen property to be so serious as to merit being listed as one of twenty-seven predicate criminal acts that trigger the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), which is the feds’ primary anti-organized-crime statute.
A prosecution for the receipt of stolen property will largely depend on whether the jury believes you were aware that the subject property was stolen, and that you were aware you were in possession of it at all relevant times. Accordingly, most of your defense efforts should go towards compiling valid evidence that, for example, you did not know – nor should you have had any reason to know or even suspect – that the musical instruments found in your friend’s car were stolen.
What Happens with a Conviction for Receiving Stolen Property
A felony conviction for receiving stolen property will result in a state penitentiary stay of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months, not accounting for any potential sentencing enhancements. Misdemeanor convictions will result in either no jail time or a maximum twelve-month county jail term, as well as either three or five years of probation.
For felony and misdemeanor convictions, you’ll have to pay court fines of $10,000 and $1,000, respectively, in addition to restitution, if any.
As with all theft-related crimes, receiving stolen property may also prove particularly problematic if you have, or trying to obtain, a professional license; have pending or anticipated future immigration hearings; or are currently in, or were planning to enter, military service. It will also result in the loss of employment opportunities once you disclose the conviction to a prospective employer.
A Few of Our Firm’s Past Theft-Crime Cases:
Client confessed to felony grand theft – result: detective declined to send case to DA’s Office
People v. R.P.: Our client was arrested for felony grand theft after he confessed to the crime. It was only after his confession that he hired us. We were able to work closely with the LAPD detective in charge of the investigation, along with the victim, and were able to work out an agreement where the detective would not send the case to the DA’s Office for prosecution if our client reimbursed the loss. After our client made restitution, he was free and clear.
Client facing burglary charge, 6 years’ max – result: DA’s Office dismissed burglary charge
People v. J.B.: Our client – a woman – had been arrested by LAPD in Pacific Palisades on suspicion of burglary and receiving stolen property (both felonies). The DA’s Office also charged the burglary as a strike offense, which meant she could receive as many as six years in prison if convicted. After taking her case, we immediately launched into a thorough investigation, the results of which we produced to the Assistant DA prosecuting the case. After meeting with us and carefully reviewing our report, which revealed that there was insufficient evidence, the prosecutor agreed to drop that charge. And for the second charge, we were able to work out a reduced plea where our client would not be jailed at all. This case garnered a considerable amount of local media attention because of the neighborhood’s affluence and the minimal crime rate in the area.