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Grand Theft

The State of California defines grand theft as the act of someone intentionally taking property from another person that has a value of more than $950.00. Under California Penal Code 487, grand theft is considered a ‘wobbler’ which means the prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. The decision for which way you will be charged is determined by the prosecutor and based on whether or not you have a criminal history and the circumstances surrounding your case.

If you have been charged with grand theft in the Long Beach area, contact a criminal attorney and make sure your treatment is fair and your rights are protected. Grand theft charges are serious, and you will want an experienced attorney on your side who understands California law and their way around the court system.

Grand Theft in California

If you live in the state of California and you take someone else’s property that has a value of more than $950 without their permission, you are committing grand theft. The prosecution can charge you under Penal Code 487 which will cause you serious personal repercussions and damage your professional record.

California grand theft statute allows the prosecutor to charge you under the Penal Code 487 if you have made one or two mistakes even if they appear to be minor. Examples of when these charges would be used include:

  • Misappropriation of funds in the amount of thousands of dollars from your employer
  • If you were caught entering another person’s home and taking their electronics which had a value of thousands of dollars. Most thefts of computers and mobile devices result in felony charges
  • If you were caught in a retail store taking jewelry that had a value of more than $1000. Anyone caught stealing from a high-end store in California could find themselves charged with grand theft
  • You are caught taking a wallet from someone that is physically touching the owner
  • The theft of certain items is always charged as grand theft in California and include; animals such as horses, farm products such as avocados, aqua cultural products such as shellfish products such as shellfish, firearms, vehicles, any item possessed and carried on another person

Penalties for Grand Theft

Grand theft under California law is a ‘wobbler.’ The prosecution decides by circumstances of your crime and whether or not you have a criminal history whether or not they will charge your offense as a felony or a misdemeanor.

If charged with a ‘standard’ misdemeanor, you could face from six months to one year of jail time. You can also be fined up to $1,000. A misdemeanor can also be labeled as ‘aggravated’ or ‘gross.’ If convicted under either of these, you could be facing up to one year in jail as well as fined up to $1,000. A misdemeanor under California law is not as serious as a felony, but more severe than an infraction.

An infraction, under the law, is punishable with a maximum $250 fine. There is no jail or prison time attached to a conviction of an infraction, nor is there any probation.

As a felony, a grand theft conviction could mean you will spend from sixteen months to three years in prison. Also, if the item stolen was a firearm, you could receive a strike on your criminal record:

California’s Three Strike Sentencing Rule

In 1994, California enacted a Three Strike sentencing law. This law states if you are convicted of a new felony and already have a prior conviction on your criminal record, you will receive a sentence to a state prison with a term of twice what you would typically have received.

Under this law if you are convicted of a new felony and have two prior convictions on your criminal record, the Three Strike Law mandates you receive a sentence of 25 years to life in a state prison.

Proposition 36

In 2012, voters in California approved an amendment to the Three Strike Law with two provisions:

If you are being charged with a new felony and have two prior convictions, the new offense must be a violent or severe charge to receive the 25 years to life sentence.

The amendment also allows defendants currently serving a Three Strike conviction the right to petition a reduction of their sentence with the court if their conviction would have made them eligible for a second strike at the time of their sentencing.

A grand theft conviction can also carry an enhancement. Receiving an enhancement to a sentence means you will receive consecutive time added to your prison time when there are certain circumstances attached to your conviction. Grand theft enhancements include:

  • An extra one year added to your prison time if you are convicted of taking property valued at more than $65,0000
  • An extra two years added to your prison time if you are convicted of taking property valued at more than $200,000
  • An extra three years added to your prison time if you are convicted of taking property valued at more than $1,3000,000
  • An extra four years added to your prison time if you are convicted of taking property valued at more than $3,200,000

Grand theft convictions are serious and will significantly impact your future. You want the best possible defense if you are facing these charges. There are several avenues a good criminal attorney can follow to defend you in Long Beach if you are being charged with grand theft.

Being Charged with Grand Theft in California

Being charged with grand theft in California does not mean you are going to be convicted of the crime. Having a good defense attorney working on your side works in your favor and could result in the charges being dropped. There are several defenses an attorney can use to help you through this challenging time.

The prosecution has to prove each element relating to your charges. The first and main point they will have to prove is your ‘intent’ to steal the items. If they cannot show your intent on these charges, they cannot charge you with grand theft. Two main points the prosecution will have to prove on your case are:

Consent was not given

The prosecution will have to prove there was no consent given to you for taking the property in question. If there was consent, they would have to show you did not act within the scope of the consent. An example would be having been loaned a vehicle, but you did not use it as intended. If you took the car and used it a manner not expressed by the consent, you may be charged with theft.

The was no ‘right’ present

You might have a defense against grand theft if you believed you were entitled to the property in question. The prosecution has to show you knew to take the item was stealing and that you understood you had no ‘right’ to have possession of it. You cannot use the ‘right of defense’ if the prosecution can show you concealed taking the property or if the property includes illegal guns, drugs, or other prohibited items or substances.

Another defense not allowed is your having returned the property after the theft was discovered. If the prosecution can still prove their points, even if items are returned, they can still charge you with grand theft.

Defense Against California Grand Theft Charges

There are several defenses your attorney can use to have charges of grand theft dismissed. One is your belief the property was yours. If you are charged with taking items you honestly believed belonged to you, there cannot be a charge of grand theft. This point also follows the fact that you did not ‘intend’ to commit a crime. When there is no ‘intent’ involved, the prosecution cannot charge you with grand theft.

Another issue that could apply to your case is you being falsely accused. Your criminal defense attorney can investigate the facts of your case and determine if you have been falsely accused of grand theft. Finding evidence in your favor that will show another party has framed you or set you up to appear guilty could allow the charges to be dismissed.

Is Grand Theft Auto Charged differently from Grand Theft?

The state of California has two statutes regarding grand theft. One is found in the Penal Codes and the second in Vehicle Code as it pertains to the theft of a vehicle. A fine line of distinction is found between being charged with grand theft auto and stealing a vehicle. The prosecution will have to prove intent first before they can charge you.

Under Penal Code 487 in California, you can only be convicted of grand theft auto if you took and drove the vehicle which you knowingly did not belong to you. It also has to be proven you had no intention of returning the car to its owner and you intended to deprive the rightful owner of their vehicle.

It will not affect your case how you took the vehicle whether it was left unattended and you found the keys inside, you hotwired it, or you broke into the vehicle. The main factor in charging you with grand theft auto is proving your ‘intent’ when taking it.

California Vehicle Code 10851 is the taking or driving of a vehicle you do not have ownership of, and it was taken without consent.  You can be charged with the crime of theft in this case. This charge must also show you intended to keep the vehicle and deprive its owner of its use. When charged under this Vehicle Code it is usually because you had a relationship with the owner of the vehicle. Most cases under this charge have taken the vehicle for a ‘joyride’ and did not have an intention to steal.

Penalties Under California Law for Grand Theft Auto Charges

Grand theft auto and the illegal taking of another’s vehicle are considered ‘wobblers’ under California law. With a wobbler, the prosecution can either charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor.

When charged with a misdemeanor, you could face sentencing of up to one year, and if as a felony, you will face from sixteen months to three years in either a county jail or state prison. As with any grand theft conviction, enhancements can be attached, and the Three Strike Law will apply to your conviction.

It doesn’t matter which form of theft you are being charged with; you need experienced legal representation to fight the charges. A skilled attorney who is familiar with California law and the court system can defend these charges and help you get them dismissed or reduced.

Defense Against Grand Theft Auto in California

A skilled defense attorney can defend you against Grand Theft Auto charges for stealing a vehicle in California. The first point the prosecutor has to show is that you ‘intended’ to steal and not borrow the car. You may have taken the car with the ‘intent’ to return it to its owner. Your attorney can show you were merely ‘joyriding’ which is a much lesser offense under Vehicle Code Section 10851.

An attorney can also investigate the charge of not having ‘consent.’ The parties owning the vehicle may have given you consent to drive the vehicle with misunderstood instructions. If the directions given to you by the owner were not understood and you inappropriately used the vehicle, it is a lesser offense or not an offense at all. An example would be if another party permitted you to use their car, but did not agree on a time to return the vehicle. When you do not arrive back at what they thought an appropriate time, and they end up reporting the car stolen, your attorney has a good cause to show there was no ‘intent’ involved in your case.

Your attorney may also be able to prove; you thought you had a legal right to the vehicle. A good faith defense proves you did not have ‘intent’ to take the car as you believed it was rightfully yours. An example is purchasing a stolen car. You buy a car from a social media site fully thinking the seller has the right to sell you the vehicle. When you charged with driving a stolen vehicle, your attorney can prove you had good faith and should not be charged with grand theft auto.

The laws in California are complex. To ensure your rights and future are protected; you need to seek legal representation immediately if you are charged with grand theft. With the right attorney, you could have your charges completely dismissed without creating a criminal record on your name, or you could have charges reduced to lessen the impact on your files.

Where can I Find a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me If Facing Grand Theft Charges?

If you live in the Long Beach area and are facing grand theft charges, call Long Beach Criminal Lawyer at 562-304-5121. Being charged with grand theft is serious and can impact your future with long-standing consequences. Don’t wait for the prosecution to build a strong case, call today and protect your rights.

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