Under the California Penal Code 487 and 488, it states that the punishment and conviction for theft crimes, both misdemeanor and felony, are determined by whether or not the offense is considered petty theft or grand theft. Petty theft is defined as the unlawful stealing of “minor” items, such as shoplifting and bicycle theft. Grand theft is defined as the unlawful stealing of something that has value of over $950 value.

Petty Theft


If someone is convicted of committed of petty theft, the defendant is liable to face up to 6 months in jail with a maximum fine of up to $1000. The charges have a chance to be reduced if the property stolen is valued at less than $50. A maximum fine of $250 is the fine fee if the case is reduced to a lesser charge. If there are more than 3 counts of petty theft, which includes auto theft, robbery, burglary, carjacking, etc., a misdemeanor petty theft conviction results in up to 364 days in county mail with a maximum fine fee of $1000. If convicted of a felony petty theft, the maximum fine is $10,000 and the defendant faces from 16 months to up to 3 years in county jail. Probation is another penalty that is possible which includes community service, repayment of the stolen property value and a possible work release program.

Grand Theft


Grand theft is comprised of multiple forms and offenses. Grand theft by larceny is defined as stealing property owned by someone else without the owner’s permission with intent. Grand theft by false pretense is defined by knowingly and intentionally deceiving someone in order to gain control and possession of their property. Grand theft by trick is defined as obtaining someone else’s property when one is aware it is owned by someone else. Thief uses fraud and deceit to deprive owner permanently of their property. Grand theft by embezzlement is defined as someone being entrusted with a property, including money, and using said property for own use, either temporarily or permanently.

There are multiple penalties for grand theft in the state of California. “Wobbler” penalties under California Penal Code 487 PC means a prosecutor may charge a theft as either a felony or a misdemeanor. This choice is made dependant on the circumstance of the specific case and the criminal history of the defendant. If convicted of a misdemeanor, it results in up to 1 year in county jail. If convicted of a felony, it results in probation and up to 1 year in county jail. Also, 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail is probable unless there was a firearm involved in the theft. If there was a firearm included, the offense is a mandatory felony with no option of being designated a misdemeanor.

There are several options of legal defenses to grand theft convictions. Lack of intent is utilized if the defendant had no intent to steal the property. Claim of right is another defense that entails claiming the property is rightfully yours. If you had the intent to conceal the taking of the property at the time of the incident, this defense does not apply. Consent is when a defendant claims the property owner give permission to the defendant to obtain the property. False accusations is the final legal defense that entails the defendant being framed.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong come equipped with the best lawyers in order to represent and defend the accused on all theft crime convictions. The talent of the lawyers is apparent due to the sensitive nature of these cases and the special attention each defendant receives throughout this tedious process.