Under California law, petty theft is defined as the theft of any property with a value of $950 or less. Petty theft crimes are generally charged as misdemeanors, which carry a sentence of up to six months in county jail and/or a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
If a person is accused of stealing property worth $50 or less, then prosecutors have the option to charge the offense as an infraction if the offender doesn’t have any other theft-related convictions. Under Cal. Penal Code § 490, petty theft charged as an infraction is punishable by a fine of up to $250.
Petty theft is considered a "wobbler", which means it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor if the offender has the following prior convictions:
- At least one prior petty or theft-related conviction for which they served a term of imprisonment.
- A prior conviction for a serious or violent offense, any registerable sex offense, or embezzlement from a dependent adult or anyone over the age of 65.
If petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor, it can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail. If petty theft is charged as a felony, then it can result in incarceration for up to 16 months, two years, or three years.
If you have been accused of petty theft, then you need to remember that police can and will use anything you say against you. That is why it is crucial to remain silent until you can consult with a criminal defense attorney. Under the 5th Amendment, you have the right to not incriminate yourself, so exercise this right if you are arrested for an alleged petty theft crime.
Your next step should be to secure skilled legal representation to make sure your best interests are protected. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can devise a strong legal strategy and help you track down important documentation and evidence that you will need to defend your rights.
Contact Our Petty Theft Attorneys Today
Depending on the circumstances and the value of the property stolen, defendants might be able to reduce their charges or avoid criminal allegations entirely. If you or a loved one are facing petty theft charges, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to our legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP so we can put our extensive resources to work on your case. We are familiar with these types of cases and take great pride in providing our clients with top-notch legal representation.
To set up your case consultation with our law firm, please give us a call today at (800) 462-7160.