California Penal Code Section 487 PC: Grand Theft

grand theft

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Grand theft under California Penal Code Section 487 PC covers theft offenses that would not qualify as petty theft, namely grand theft charges apply when:

  1. The theft involves a loss in excess of $950
  2. The item stolen is a car or a gun
  3. OR the item stolen was physically and directly taken off of a person.

In many cases, grand theft may be shoplifting where the sum of the items taken exceeds $950. This is fairly common in many higher-end luxury department stores, where stealing a few articles of clothing can easily result in grand theft by larceny charges. To prove grand theft by larceny, the following elements must be present:

  1. The defendant took someone else's property.
  2. He or she did so without the owner's consent
  3. The defendant intended to take this property away from the true owner when he or she seized it
  4. The defendant moved or kept the property
  5. AND the value of the property exceeded $950, the property was a firearm or automobile, OR the property was taken directly off the person of someone else.

To prove grand theft by false pretense, the following elements must exist:

  1. The defendant knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner by false or fraudulent representation or pretense
  2. The defendant did this intending to persuade the owner to let the defendant have ownership and possession of property
  3. The owner let the defendant have this property because he relied on the defendant's representation or pretense
  4. AND the property in question was worth more than $950

To prove grand theft by trick, the following elements must be present:

  1. The defendant obtained property he or she knew belonged to someone else
  2. The property owner consented to the defendant's possession of the property because of the defendant's use of fraud or deceit
  3. When the defendant obtained the property, he or she intended to take it permanently from its owner
  4. The defendant kept the property for any length of time
  5. The owner did not intend to transfer ownership of the property to the defendant
  6. AND the property in question was worth more than $950

To prove grand theft by embezzlement, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. An owner entrusted his or her property to the defendant
  2. The owner did so because he or she trusted the defendant
  3. The defendant fraudulently converted or used that property for his or her own benefit
  4. When the defendant did this, he or she intended to deprive the owner of its use
  5. AND the property in question was worth over $950

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Petty Theft - California Penal Code Section 484 PC
  2. Grand Theft Auto - California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) PC
  3. Burglary - California Penal Code Section 459 PC
  4. Robbery - California Penal Code Section 211 PC

3. Examples

A woman goes into a high-end department store and shoplifts a couple of items of clothing. She is stopped by loss prevention while exiting the store and is later shocked to learn that the value of clothing taken was $1000. She could be charged with grand theft even though she was shoplifting and only stole a few items, as the value of the theft exceeded $950.

A man offers to take his friend's old automobile to the junkyard for him and then give him the proceeds of the sale minus a small finder's fee. The automobile barely runs and is worth approximately $500. The man takes the car and sells it to the junkyard, but keeps the entire $500 for himself. This man could be prosecuted for grand theft, because even though his theft involved less than $950, it involved an automobile which automatically makes it grand theft.

4. Defenses to Grand Theft

Grand theft requires that the defendant unlawfully intended to take another's property. There are many situations in which this taking may be done inadvertently. When this occurs, the defendant may be able to raise an accident defense.

5. Penalties

Grand theft is a "wobbler" offense that can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, a defendant can be sentenced to up to a year in jail in addition to costly court fines. If sentenced as a felony, the defendant can face up to three years in prison. If the item stolen is a firearm, the offense is always a felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison in addition to being considered as a "strike" under California's Three Strikes law.

Depending on the value of the property stolen, there may be penalty enhancements that can be added to any sentence for grand theft. If the value of the property was more than $65,000, an additional year in prison can be added to any sentence. If the property value exceeded $200,000 an additional two years may be tacked on to any sentence. If the value of property stolen was in excess of $1,300,000, an additional three years can be added. And if the value of the theft exceeded $3,200,000, the defendant may face an additional four years in prison.

6. Criminal Defense for Grand Theft Cases

If you or someone you know are facing grand theft charges, it is very important that you discuss your options with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who was previously assigned to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's elite Major Fraud Division, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly experienced at dealing with large-scale theft cases. Mr. Kraut is highly respected by law enforcement and prosecutors and often his early involvement in a case may preclude charges from being filed altogether.

For more information about grand theft, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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