One of the more common offenses prosecuted in California courts is shoplifting, or petty theft as it is referred to under California Penal Code Sections 484 and 488. This is because most major shopping chains are painfully aware of the financial damage shoplifters can inflict and have invested heavily in areas such as in-store monitoring and private security forces. California petty theft can be charged when the value of the goods stolen are worth $950 or less. Theft of property valued over $950 can be charged as Grand Theft under Penal Code § 487. In many cases petty theft from Macy’s Department Store or petty theft from Nordstrom’s Department Store are some of the most common theft crimes prosecuted in the Los Angeles area.
Petty theft is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of three years probation, up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1000. Grand theft is considered a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged at the prosecutor’s discretion as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When making this determination, prosecutors will often take into account various factors, such as the value of the goods in question and the defendant’s prior criminal record. If an individual has a prior conviction for petty theft, they may be charged with Petty Theft with a Prior pursuant to California Penal Code § 666, which is a wobbler. This charge carries stiffer penalties – up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor charge and potentially 16 months in prison if the Penal Code 666 charge is filed as a felony.
People with immigration issues should note that petty theft is regarded as a “crime of moral turpitude” and could potentially lead to deportation or denial of naturalization or citizenship.
There are typically many ways to defend against petty theft charges. If an individual has no prior criminal record, a prosecutor may agree to allow that person to complete a diversionary program in lieu of a conviction. Additionally, many times the stores involved will agree to a civil compromise in which they are fully compensated for the theft and the resources they expended in investigating it.
There are also legitimate legal defenses that may be applicable in certain cases. The petty theft statute requires that the perpetrator must have a full intent to steal for them to be guilty of a crime. Therefore, someone who inadvertently walks out of a store while carrying goods would not be guilty of petty theft, as they lacked the requisite intent to steal from the store.
If you have been cited or charged with petty under Penal Code § 484 and 488 it is imperative that you have a top-rated petty theft defense lawyer to work on your behalf as soon as possible. In many cases hiring a former prosecutor immediately after being arrested could be the key to getting a person into a diversion program and prevent them from having a criminal record. In some cases a civil compromise with the victim store or work could assist in getting a person into a suitable diversion program. Los Angeles Petty Theft Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former prosecutor and has assisted many people arrested with petty theft avoid criminal prosecution. If you have been charged with petty theft under California Penal Code §§ 484 and 488, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group today for your free consultation by calling (323) 464-6453.