Posted on February 10, 2016

“Grand Theft” Charges │ California Penal Code 487 PC

In California, allegations of “Grand Theft” are charged under Penal Code 487. Simply put, if the amount in controversy exceeds $950, then the prosecutor will charge you with grand theft. If the amount is $950 or less, then you are not guilty of this crime but the government may elect to charge you with misdemeanor petty theft. Contrary to popular belief, grand theft need not involve money or property, but services and/or labor performed will suffice if the value of the services performed exceed $950. If you committed theft of a vehicle or theft of a person, then charges of grand theft auto or grand theft person will follow. This article will address 9 things you should know about California grand theft laws.

1. When Should I Retain a Theft Crimes Lawyer?

Early intervention by a Grand Theft Defense Attorney is the first step to successful grand theft defense. Specifically, a lawyer will speak with detectives directly to ensure that law enforcement will not contact you hoping that you give incriminating statements. Additionally, the Law Offices of John Rogers will contact witnesses early on to get a statement before their memories fade, and submit notices to business, organizations, and individuals demanding that they preserve any and all evidence that may be useful towards your defense. Evidence such as video surveillance, recordings, or correspondence. Contact Attorney John D. Rogers at the cases earliest juncture to begin your defense.

2. What must the Prosecutor Prove for Grand Theft?

According to CALCRIM 1800, in order to prove you’re guilty of grand theft by larceny under PC 487, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. You took property that did not belong to you;

2. You took the property without the owner’s consent;

3. You intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property or for an extended period of time depriving the owner of a major portion of value or enjoyment;

4. You moved the property however slight.

3. What are the Legal Defenses to Grand Theft?

I. Defense: Your Property

The property you’re accused of taking actually belonged to you. For instance, you may have lent your television to a friend or colleague for a short period and you were merely getting your property back. This however may require you to obtain photographs of the television in your home or produce receipts for the purchase since your accuser will likely be alleging it was their property. Overall, you cannot be convicted of grand theft if the property was yours.

II. Defense: Claim of Right

The defense of “claim of right” means you had a reasonable good-faith claim of right to the property. Ultimately, it does not matter if you actually did not have a claim of right but only that you harbored a good-faith belief you had a claim of right. However, you cannot assert a claim of right defense to stolen or illegal property – e.g., stolen handgun or illegal narcotics.

III. Defense: Consent

The owner of the property consented for you to take or use the property. The term “use the property” must fall within the permissible scope. In other words, if you were permitted to use the property in a certain manner, but you exceeded the use, then it arguably becomes a theft. For example, your neighbor lends you his lawnmower to mow your lawn. However, you use the lawnmower to mow local parks and football fields.

IV. Defense: Lack of Intent

All theft offenses, including grand theft, require an intent to steal mindset. This being said, if you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property, then you cannot be convicted of this offense. For example, you may have accidently forgot to pay for certain items in your shopping cart at the store.

V. Defense: No Deprivation

The owner of the property was not deprived of a major portion of value of enjoyment. This defense will turn on the length of time you possessed the property in addition to whether your accuser intended to use the property in any manner.

VI. Defense: Movement

The government cannot prove that you moved the property. The requirements for this offense are that you “took” property. In some instances, you may be found in possession of property, but possession alone, without any additional evidence, arguably does not mean you moved the property. Or perhaps you were merely present at a location with other individuals. Indeed, mere presence alone cannot lead to a conviction because there is insufficient evidence.

VII. Defense: False Accusations

Your accuser is falsely accusing you for known or unknown reasons. There could be a number of reasons why someone would falsely accuse you of committing a crime. For instance, your former spouse may file a report alleging this crime to gain an upper hand in child custody proceedings or someone may allege this offense for revenge purposes. Unfortunately, false accusations are common and are often built on substantial exaggerations by your accuser.

VIII. Defense: Mistaken Identity

Grand theft does not require you to be “caught” with any merchandise or property you’re being accused of taking. The government need only show that property was taken, it exceeded $950 dollars, and you were the person who took the property without the owner’s permission. That being said, you could have been mistakenly identified as the individual accused of taking the property even if police never recover the property from you. Common factors associated with mistaken identity are: poor lighting, cross-racial identification, and/or cognitive or mental disabilities of the witness.

IX. Defense: Miranda Violation

Your incriminating statements were illegally obtained by law enforcement in violation of your Miranda rights. The government may be relying on your statements to prove you intended to permanently deprive the owner or perhaps using your statements to assist in identifying you as the individual who committed the theft when identification of the suspect is an issue. Nonetheless, if your statements are ordered suppressed as a violation of your Miranda rights, then the government cannot use your statements against you and thus opens the door for reasonable doubt.

X. Defense: Search & Seizure

The physical evidence against you was illegally obtained in violation of your search & seizure right under the Fourth Amendment right. Physical evidence may be obtain via search of your person, car, or home. If you granted consent to search, then the validity or scope of your permission must be considered to see if you freely gave consent or police exceeded the scope of your permission – e.g., “you can search my garage only”. In the event physical evidence was obtain via search warrant, then the contents of the warrant must be carefully reviewed for any false representations or constitutional technicalities. If the court concludes that police committed an unlawful search, then the government cannot use the evidence against you in court.

4. What is the Punishment for Grand Theft PC 487?

Grand theft is a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor holds discretion when electing to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail whereas a felony conviction carries 16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail. The court will additionally impose a restitution amount to be paid to your accuser for any damages or money loss.

A grand theft conviction is a crime involving moral turpitude and therefore you could face adverse consequences to your immigration status, and your ability to gain or maintain state licensing. Furthermore, a felony conviction will carry a permanent firearm ban.

5. What is Grand Theft Auto?

Grand Theft Auto” is charged under PC 487(d)(1) which is merely grand theft but involving the theft of a vehicle exceeding $950 in value. The legal principles and sentencing consequences are identical to grand theft. The difference in defenses however, including evidence that you shared the vehicle with another person and you were legally privileged to drive the vehicle. Normally, via plea negotiations with the prosecutor, this charge can be reduced to joy riding, a lesser offense.

6. What are Examples of Grand Theft?

• Leaving an electronics store with a big screen television worth $1,000 without paying.

• Taking $2,000 from your roommate’s bedroom drawer while they’re away on vacation.

• Cashing a false check at the bank in the amount of $1,200.

• Going into someone’s garage and stealing their motorcycle worth $10,000.

7. Reducing Felony Grand Theft to a Misdemeanor

As noted above, grand theft is a wobbler offense. Because it can charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, you may be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b) upon successful completion of your probation. This remedy requires a specific petition to be filed with the court along with a points and authorities explaining the reason(s) you should be granted reduction.

If the judge grants your motion, the felony will then be reduced to a misdemeanor “for all purposes” carrying with it, a full restoration of your rights – including your right to own a firearm. The judge will consider the following factors when deciding whether to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor:

• Your prior criminal record

• Whether you suffered from any probation violations

• Whether you’re likely to re-offend

• The property/money amount

• The planning and sophistication of your offense

• How many victims you committed the crime against

• Reason(s) you’re seeking reduction – e.g., child custody, employment, military, etc.

8. Grand Theft Expungement

If you suffer from a grand theft conviction, you may be eligible to expunge your record under PC 1203.4 on condition that: 1) you fully completed your probation period; 2) you did not serve a state prison sentence; and 3) you do not have any cases pending against you. To obtain this remedy, you must file a petition with the court. If the court grants your petition, you will be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from your conviction. In other words, the judge will have declared you to be statutorily rehabilitated. For more information about filing an expungement petition, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

9. Free Criminal Defense Consultation

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers if you’re being investigated or you’re charged with grand theft PC 487 for a free confidential consultation.

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