California Penal Code Section 487j PC: Grand Theft Of Copper Materials

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimecopper theft

As a result of the recent foreclosure crisis, many houses fell into foreclosure and were effectively abandoned by their owners. In many cases, homes become stripped of any items that may be considered valuable. This includes the copper piping and other materials that can be sold to scrap dealers for a sizable profit. However, grand theft of copper materials is a criminal offense under California Penal Code Section 487j PC, and conviction can result in lengthy prison sentences.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of grand theft of copper materials, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant stole or maliciously took or carried away copper materials of another, including but not limited to copper wire, copper cable, copper tubing and copper piping.

  2. AND the value of the copper materials taken exceeded $950.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Grand TheftCalifornia Penal Code Section 487 PC
  2. Petty TheftCalifornia Penal Code Section 484 PC
  3. Burglary - California Penal Code Section 459 PC
3. Examples

A man knows that no one has lived in the house next door to his for several years and that the property is currently in foreclosure and owned by the bank. While the house is vacant, the man realizes that it is an older house that is filled with copper piping. The man goes into the house and removes all the copper piping in order to sell it to a local scrap dealer. The value of the copper removed is approximately $2000. This man could be charged with grand theft of copper materials in violation of California Penal Code Section 487j PC. He could also be charged with burglary in violation of California Penal Code Section 459 PC, because he entered the other residence with the intent to commit grand theft.

In another example, a man works at a manufacturing plant that often uses copper wire in many of its products. The plant maintains a large supply of copper wiring for use in day to day manufacturing. The man realizes that every day there is leftover copper wiring that goes unused. The man takes this excess material in order to sell it to a scrap metal dealer. The total value of the copper wiring taken exceeds $950. This man could be charged with grand theft of copper materials. In addition, he could be prosecuted for embezzlement in violation of California Penal Code Section 503 PC because he unlawfully misappropriated property that belonged to his employer that had been entrusted to him.

4. Defenses to Grand Theft of Copper Materials

In order for a person to be criminally liable for grand theft of copper materials, the copper taken must have actually belonged to someone else. There are many cases where homes, appliances or other items containing copper material are abandoned by their owners. In these cases, it would not be illegal for someone else to remove the copper components. However, in many cases what may seem to be abandoned property may actually be owned by a distant relative, creditor or the bank. In these cases, a defendant could still be charged with grand theft of copper materials, as the property taken did belong to someone else.

5. Penalties

Grand theft of copper materials is a “wobbler” offense. This means that a prosecutor can charge this offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When determining what level of charges to file, prosecutors will consider a wide array of factors, including the amount of loss incurred, the defendant’s criminal history, and the level of criminal sophistication displayed. If charged as a felony, the maximum penalty that a defendant can receive is three years in prison. If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence would be a year in county jail. In either case, the defendant would be expected to pay restitution to the victim for any loss incurred as a result of the crime.

6. Criminal Defense for Grand Theft of Copper Materials Cases

If you have been charged with grand theft of copper materials, or are under investigation for this crime, it is crucial to meet with a knowledgeable Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively defend those charged with all varieties of theft offenses. In many cases, Mr. Kraut’s early involvement in a case while it is still being investigated can be critical in the case being rejected or significantly reduced.

For more information about grand theft of copper materials, 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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