Theft crimes comprise a wide range of offenses like petty theft, mail theft, identity theft, and robbery, where a defendant knowingly and illegally stole somebody else's property without consent. The crime could be either non-violent or violent. You should not take a theft crime charge lightly since it might carry severe penalties, especially when violence is allegedly involved. You should protect your freedom, life, constitutional rights, and finances with the skilled attorneys at Koenig Law Office. We can help you develop legal strategies to avoid consequences and a conviction. We take pride in offering compassionate legal representation to clients charged with criminal charges throughout Bakersfield for many years.
What is Theft?
Theft is taking somebody else's property/money without their permission/consent or intending to deprive the property owner of the possession. There are numerous forms of theft crimes depending primarily on the asset stolen. Theft could be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the seriousness and could involve real estate, personal property, the worth of services, and money.
Penal Code Section 530.5 (e) PC is a statute that defines the offense of mail theft. According to this section, each individual who commits mail theft, as defined in Section 1708 of Title 18 of the United States Code, is guilty of a public crime.
PC 530.5 (e) is not treated as most theft crimes in that its penalties don't depend on the monetary value of the mail stolen. Typically, the crime is linked to identity theft, and prosecutors often file them together. It is because most people steal other person's mail to acquire personal identifying information.
The term "mail" includes packages, mail bags, letters, and postcards.
Mail theft is charged as a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:
- Summary (misdemeanor) probation
- A maximum of one thousand dollars in fines
- A year in jail
Since law enforcement agencies claim that the goal of mail theft is identity theft, you should not take the charges lightly. Please consider hiring a skilled theft crime defense attorney. The legal counsel could use the following legal defenses:
- It was an accident
- You did not have criminal intent
Possession of Burglary Tools
Under California PC 466, it is an offense to possess a burglary tool with criminal intent.
The prosecutor must establish the following elements of the crime to convict you of this theft crime:
- You possessed a burglary tool.
- You acted so intending to commit burglary.
- You violate burglary laws when:
- You enter a motor vehicle or structure, and
- You acted so intending to commit petty theft or a California felony after getting in
Some of the objects that are deemed burglary tools include:
- Vise grip pliers
- Tension bars
- Key bits
- Slide hammers
- Spark plug chips
- Master keys
Penalties and Consequences of Possession of Burglary Tools
Possession of burglary tools is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. It attracts a six-month county jail sentence and one thousand dollars in fines.
The offense neither affects your immigration status nor gun rights.
How to Fight the Charges
You can contest the criminal charges with a valid legal strategy. Common defenses you can use include:
- You did not intend to commit the offense
- Illegal search and seizure
- You did not have the burglary tools.
California Extortion Law
California PC 518 makes it an offense to use threats or force to compel somebody else to hand over an asset or property or push a public officer to engage in official conduct.
The prosecutor should establish the following to sentence you for the crime:
- You threatened to do any of the below to the victim:
- Accuse them or their loved one of an offense
- Reveal a secret involving the victim or their loved one, or connect them with disgrace, scandal, or crime
- Cause injuries or apply force against the victim or their property
- When applying force or making threats, you planned to force the alleged victim into permitting you to give you their asset or money or engage in official conduct.
- Due to the threat, the alleged victim gave consent to give you property or money or perform official acts.
- Then the victim engaged in official conduct or gave you property or money.
Extortion is a specific intent offense, and you should have the desire to violate the law and intend to realize a particular outcome.
Please note, you can violate extortion laws by getting signatures or using threatening letters.
Violation of PC 518 is a California felony. The conviction attracts ten thousand dollars in fines and up to four years in California state prison.
It is one of the crimes involving moral turpitude. If an immigrant commits the crime, they could be marked as inadmissible or deported.
A conviction will also adversely affect your firearm rights.
Since this crime is punished with prison time, your conviction cannot be expunged. That means you will have a permanent criminal record.
Robbery (Penal Code Section 211)
Robbery under PC 211 is the felonious taking of personal assets in possession of another person, from their person or immediate presence, and against their will, realized by application of force or fear.
Penalties and Sentencing for Robbery
The consequences of robbery depend mainly on whether the crime is charged as second-degree or first-degree robbery.
Consequences of California First-Degree Robbery
Prosecutor will charge first degree if one of the below is correct:
- The victim is a passenger or motorist of a streetcar, cable car, subway, trackless trolley, taxi, or bus.
- The robbery happened in a boat, trailer, or inhabited house.
- The robbery occurred immediately following or while your victim uses their ATM.
- A structure or house is inhabited if a person lives there. They can be present or have left but plan to go back.
First-degree robbery is a California felony, and it carries the following penalties:
- Formal (felony) probation
- A maximum of six (6) years in prison
- Ten thousand dollars in fines
Penalties of Second-Degree Robbery
Second-degree robbery is defined as any robbery that doesn't satisfy the first-degree robbery's definition.
This crime is a felony and is punishable by:
- Formal probation
- A five-year state prison sentence
- Ten thousand dollars in fines
Fighting PC 211 Charges
While the penalties for robbery are severe, your qualified attorney could help. Some of the legal strategies that the legal expert could help you beat the charges or even get the charges dismissed or reduced include:
- You did not apply fear or force to seize the property
- You thought you were entitled to the asset
- You were falsely accused
- You're a victim of mistaken identity
PC 215 makes it an offense to take an automotive from somebody else using fear or force.
The application of fear or force means inflicting physical force on the victim or threatening to inflict imminent physical harm. It does not matter whether the individual in the motor vehicle is a passenger or a motorist or whether the vehicle occupants own the car. If you used fear or force to control the automotive, you might be found guilty of the crime.
The penalties of California PC 215 include:
- Fines of $10,000
- A maximum nine-year imprisonment
- A year in jail and probation
Since carjacking is an aggravated felony, a conviction could result in removal or deportation if you're an alien or a legal immigrant.
Please note, you face these consequences for each victim in the automotive during the offense.
On top of the above penalties and consequences, there are sentencing enhancements that increase/enhance the sentence under specific circumstances. They include:
- Great bodily injuries— If the alleged victim sustained severe bodily injuries due to your conduct, the judge would enhance your prison sentence by three to six years.
- Criminal street gang enhancement per PC 186.22—Carjacking concerning, for the benefit of, or at the direction of the criminal street gang will lead to a gang enhancement. Your conviction could result in a 15-year-to-life sentence in state prison alongside the carjacking penalties.
- Three strikes laws —A PC conviction is a strike. You must serve more than 85% of the sentence before being eligible for parole.
- Felony-murder rule—The felony-murder rule makes you accountable for first-degree murder if, when violating the law, you or your accomplice unintentionally or accidentally killed a person. You require not to have planned to murder an alleged victim. Provided a person dies due to your conduct, you could be prosecuted with felony murder.
Fighting Carjacking Charges
There are legal strategies that your defense attorney could use to fight the criminal charges against you, including:
- You applied no force or fear to seize the motor vehicle.
- Mistaken identity
- The vehicle's possessor gave permission
Theft by False Pretenses
PC 532 makes it an offense to defraud another person of property or money through false representations or promises. In other words, PC 532 is persuading a person to voluntarily give you their asset by making promises that will not be kept or lying to them.
Generally, the crime could be petty theft or grand theft, depending heavily on the value of the property involved.
If the worth of the asset stolen exceeds $950 or is a motor vehicle or gun, then you will face grand theft. It is prosecuted as a wobbler, and the prosecutor could elect to file either a California felony or misdemeanor based on your criminal record and case circumstances. If found guilty of a misdemeanor, you'll spend a year in jail. On the contrary, a felony attracts sixteen (16) months, two (2) years, or three (3) years in California state prison.
If the asset involved is less than $950 and isn't a firearm, livestock, or a car, you will be prosecuted with petty theft. It is a misdemeanor. It attracts six months in jail and one thousand dollars in fines.
Fortunately, there are legal strategies that might help fight criminal charges. Your defense lawyer should develop a defense that suits your case best. Common defenses include:
- You didn't plan to deceive the alleged victim.
- The alleged victim didn't depend on what you said.
PC 459.5 makes shoplifting a California misdemeanor. Shoplifting is entering an open business intending to steal products whose value does not exceed nine hundred and fifty dollars.
The crime carries a maximum of six months in county jail and up to one thousand dollars in fines. The judge could impose summary probation in place of a jail sentence. Since shoplifting is not a crime involving moral turpitude, it cannot lead to deportation.
Many legal strategies are viable in the criminal charge, including:
- Mistake of fact
- Informal diversion
- Civil compromise
- After-entry intent
California PC 484 defines petty theft as wrongfully taking or stealing another person's property whose worth does not exceed nine hundred and fifty dollars. Numerous theft forms can result in a petty theft charge, including theft by embezzlement, theft by false pretense, and theft by larceny.
Violation of PC 484 is a misdemeanor, and it attracts a fine of one thousand dollars and six (6) months in jail. A conviction could have adverse immigration consequences for a non-immigrant.
If convicted, you can seek expungement after completing your jail sentence or probation.
While petty theft penalties are severe, there are many legal defenses that your criminal defense attorney could use to fight the criminal charge. They include:
- You acted with the asset owner's permission
- You borrowed the asset
- You can assert a claim of right over the property
PC 487 makes it a crime to illegally take somebody else's property whose value exceeds nine hundred and fifty dollars.
The crime is a wobbler, and the prosecutor can choose to file either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the criminal history. A California misdemeanor charge attracts a year in jail. On the other hand, a felony carries sixteen months, two (2) years, or three (3) years in jail. If you committed the crime using a firearm, your potential sentence is 16 months, 2 years or three years in state prison.
Depending on your case circumstances, there are several legal defenses that your attorney can use to beat your criminal charge. They include:
- Lack of intent
- Claim of right
- False allegations
California Embezzlement Laws
Another theft crime is embezzlement. It happens when an entrusted individual to another person's property steals part or all of the property for their financial gain. While the accused has lawful access to the asset, they do not have its legal ownership.
Penalties and consequences of embezzlement in California depend on the amount of money involved or the asset's value or type.
If the asset's worth is less than nine hundred and fifty dollars, you will be prosecuted with a misdemeanor that is punished by fines of one thousand dollars and six months in jail.
Embezzlement of services, money, or property whose value exceeds nine hundred and fifty dollars is grand theft. It's a misdemeanor that attracts a year in jail.
Embezzlement of public money is a felony. The defendant may be subjected to increased penalties, including four years in prison, repayment of the stolen funds, fines, and permanent disqualification from any local or state government position.
Under PC 470, forgery could mean false checks, filing a false insurance claim, or writing a will without authorization. To be found guilty, the prosecutor should prove the following elements of the crime:
- You acted with intent to defraud a person
- Using writing covered by forgery statutes
- You falsely altered and made the writing
Following the passing of California Proposition 47 per PC 473, forgery is a California misdemeanor provided the involved property's worth does not exceed nine hundred and fifty dollars. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to a year in jail and one thousand dollars in fines.
If convicted of a felony, you will face the following penalties:
- Sixteen months, or two or three years in years
- A fine of ten thousand dollars in fines
- Perform community service
Defenses to Forgery
Remember, the intent to defraud is one of the elements of the crime. For instance, if you signed for somebody else because you thought you had the authority to act so, you are not guilty of the crime. It is because you did not act with the specific intent required by the statute.
Moreover, the forged or faked document should be associated with a scheme to defraud somebody else. Suppose the document in question was a fake news article, fake endorsement, or false letter of recommendation. In that case, you cannot be sentenced for forgery unless your document played a significant role in defrauding a person.
Find a Bakersfield Criminal Attorney Near Me
A theft crime could permanently affect your life, notwithstanding the value of the asset involved. Depending on the case circumstances and criminal record, a conviction could carry more severe penalties. Although this theft crimes overview could help you understand California's sentencing and legal strategies for theft offenses, it isn't legal advice. Throughout the criminal proceeding, Koenig Law Office could stand with you and provide comprehensive insight into prosecution strategies and weaknesses. It might help you have a clean criminal record and avoid a conviction. Contact us today at 661-793-7222 to book your free initial consultation and discuss your case circumstances.