Being accused of grand theft is obviously a serious situation. As a felony charge, grand theft carries serious consequences that can follow you for years. Petty theft charges, on the other hand, are often dismissed as minor charges or simply “no big deal.”
Unfortunately, this characterization isn’t entirely accurate of the serious offense.
Petty theft is still a form of theft, albeit of goods valued less than $400.00 (or $950.00 in the case of shoplifting). You can still be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in prison.
Most petty theft charges stem from stealing directly from another person, but even other actions like dining and dashing or even switching the tags on an item to pay less can land you with petty theft charges.
Even accidentally walking out of a store without paying for an item can get you arrested on petty theft or shoplifting charges. Any of these actions can lead to a criminal record.
Petty Theft Charges
In California, a theft conviction will result in penalties ranging in severity depending on the amount stolen. This division is based on the dollar value of the item or items you were alleged to have stolen. There are some other specific forms of theft charges that you might encounter, depending on your circumstances.
Under California Penal Code §488, petty theft is basically any theft that isn’t grand theft, or in other words, theft of money or items that are valued at less than $950. Petty theft is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the value of the theft is $50 or less, petty theft can be charged as an infraction.
If you entered a retail outlet and stole property with a value less than $950, that is a theft misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 1 year in jail. There are a number of potential defenses to shoplifting charges.
For example, if you are being investigated for a shoplifting crime or being accused of stealing property from a store, you may be able to provide the defense that you truthfully believed at that time you were entitled to have that property. However, every case is different and every circumstance leading up to the charge varies. It is best to consult with a San Diego theft attorney regarding the details of your situation for optimal outcome.
Do I Need a San Diego Petty Theft Lawyer to Fight My Charges?
The term “petty theft” can be misleading. Since it is considered a misdemeanor, many people choose to forgo legal counsel, forgetting that the legal consequences of misdemeanors are not always as petty as expected.
Without the help of someone experienced in legal matters giving advice and staying on top of the case’s process, many of these defendants find themselves receiving harsher punishment than they expected.
A petty theft charge may not seem as serious as a grand theft charge, but the conviction of petty theft can have serious repercussions on your future. A San Diego theft attorney can best advise you what to do.
If it is your first offense or the value of the goods is very small, your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges before you ever go to trial or get you into a diversion program. Even if it is not your first offense, an experienced San Diego petty theft lawyer will have the legal knowledge necessary to help you get the best outcome possible.
It’s important to note that if you have certain priors, you could even be charged with a felony under California’s “petty theft with a prior” law. If you have priors, you should be made aware of whether or not this may be a possibility in your case.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you want to take advantage of your right to an attorney or not, but sound legal advice can help in many cases. If you have been arrested for petty theft in California, call San Diego theft attorney Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 for a free consultation on your case. Find out how she may be able to help.