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A brief overview of California’s petty and grand theft laws

On Behalf of | Apr 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Although you should view any theft charge as a serious matter, some thefts are more severe than others in California. Many of the differences in theft laws are clear.

For example, if someone takes headphones (petty theft) from their neighbor, it probably will not lead to catastrophic legal results. However, if someone steals a car (grand theft) from their neighbor, they can expect harsh consequences if convicted.

State grand theft laws

Grand theft charges can arise in several situations. In most cases, grand theft involves taking property valued at more than $950. However, taking some items valued lower can also lead to these charges. Five examples of such property include:

  1.   Farm crops, including livestock, exceeding a value of $250
  2.   Aquacultural products (crustaceans, fish, kelp, etc.) exceeding $250 in value
  3.   Money, items or labor taken from an employer over 12 months exceeding $950 in value
  4.   Motor vehicles
  5.   Firearms

You may also face grand theft if accused of taking lesser valued items or cash from someone else’s person or body.

If convicted of grand theft, the possible consequences include jail time of up to three years and a fine.

State petty theft laws

If you look for details about petty theft on the California legislative website, you will see this: “Theft in other cases is petty theft.” Unfortunately, this definition provides little insight into the offense.

Generally, petty theft charges occur when the item (or items) in question are worth less than $950. If convicted of petty theft, you could face up to six months in jail and a fine.

Protecting your rights

If you want to build a criminal defense against petty theft, do not forget that certain items (vehicles, firearms, etc.) automatically qualify as grand theft even if they have a low value.

Learning more about criminal defense for California theft charges can help you plan an effective strategy.