California Penal Code Section 666 PC: Petty Theft With a Prior

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

petty theft

While people think of shoplifting as a low-level theft offense, there may be situations in which a petty theft crime can lead to severe penalties. For those who are convicted of petty theft and who have certain prior convictions on their record, California Penal Code Section 666 PC allows for potential felony charges that can result in prison sentences.

If a defendant has been convicted of a petty theft offense, the prosecutor must prove the following additional elements in order to satisfy the elements of California Penal Code Section 666 PC:

  1. The defendant was previously convicted of a theft offense
  2. AND the defendant served a term in a penal institution for that conviction.

If a defendant is charged with the California Penal Code Section 666 PC enhancement, the defendant may choose to stipulate to the conviction(s). This would prevent the jury from hearing about the defendant's prior crimes. Alternatively, the defendant may request a bifurcated trial in which the prosecutor would have to prove the prior conviction(s) separately from the current offense.

Under California Penal Code Section 666 PC, the following theft-related offenses can be considered for enhancement purposes:

  1. Petty Theft - California Penal Code Section 484 PC
  2. Grand Theft - California Penal Code Section 487 PC
  3. Grand Theft Auto - California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1)
  4. Burglary - California Penal Code 459 PC
  5. Carjacking - California Penal Code Section 215 PC
  6. Robbery - California Penal Code Section 211 PC
  7. Receiving Stolen Property - California Penal Code Section 496(a) PC

However, simply having one of these prior convictions on one’s record is not enough. In order to qualify for the California Penal Code Section 666 PC penalty enhancement, one of the two additional conditions must also exist:

  1. The defendant has three of more prior convictions for the offenses listed above
  2. OR the defendant has one conviction from the list above AND either has
    1. A sex offense conviction that requires registration under California Penal Code Section 290 PC
    2. OR the defendant has a previous conviction for a "violent felony."

    2. Related Offenses

    Similar offenses include the following:

    1. Petty Theft - California Penal Code Section 484(a) PC
    2. Grand Theft - California Penal Code Section 487 PC

    3. Examples

    A man was convicted of carjacking in violation of California Penal Code Section 215 PC when he was 18 years old and was sentenced to serve some time in jail. The man turned his life around and did not commit any crimes over the next thirty years. However, he gets caught shoplifting $50 worth of clothes from a local department store. The petty theft with a prior sentencing enhancement could apply to this man because he had a prior violent felony conviction and a subsequent petty theft offense. He could be sent to prison on the new offense. However, someone who only had one prior petty theft offense could not be punished under California Penal Code Section 666 PC, because petty theft it is not a violent felony and thus requires three or more prior offenses.

    4. Defenses to Petty Theft with a Prior

    If no jail time was served on the prior offense(s) (which is very common) the defendant could not be convicted of petty theft with a prior. In addition, if there are problems with the "new" theft offense and the defendant is not convicted or pleads to a lesser charge, the enhancement would be inapplicable.

    5. Penalties

    Petty theft with a prior is a "wobbler" offense, which means that a prosecutor can pursue either misdemeanor or felony charges. If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is a year in jail and if charged as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

    6. Criminal Defense for Petty Theft with a Prior Cases

    If you have been charged with a theft offense and there has been an additional petty theft with a prior allegation, it is very important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Any conviction could result in a permanent felony and potential prison time. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experienced who knows how to effectively defend charges like this. Mr. Kraut works tirelessly to ensure his clients get the best result possible.

    For more information about the petty theft with a prior enhancement, 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 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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