Posted on February 12, 2016

“Petty Theft” Charges | California Penal Code 484 PC

In California, “Petty Theft” is charged under Penal Code 484(a) where the value of the property is $950 or less. If the value exceeds $950, then you can expect to be charged with grand theft. The value of the property is the actual sales price or its fair market value. Contrary to popular belief, petty theft not only encompasses personal property, but also labor and services. The following article will address 7 important things you should know about petty theft charges.

1. What is the Legal Definition of Petty Theft?

PC 484(a) provides: “Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.”

2. What Must the Prosecutor Prove for Petty Theft?

Under CALCRIM 1800, In order to prove that you’re guilty of petty theft pursuant to PC 484(a), the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. You took possession of property owned by someone else;

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

3. When you took the property, you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or remove it from the owner’s or the owner’s agent’s possession for an extended period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property;

4. You moved the property, however slight, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.

3. What is the Punishment for Petty Theft?

• Up to 6 months in the county jail

• Court fine not exceeding $1,000

• 1 to 3 years of summary probation

• Stay Away Order

4. What are the Legal Defenses to Petty Theft?

• The government cannot prove you actually took possession of someone else’s property.

• You’re being falsely accused by the owner of the property for known or unknown reasons.

• You reasonably believed in good-faith that you were entitled to the property.

• You were given consent by the owner to take the property.

• You did not harbor the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, or the owner was not deprive of a major portion of enjoyment of the property.

• You did not move the property in any way.

• The physical evidence obtained against you was illegally obtained by police in violation of your search & seizure rights.

• Your incriminating statements given to police were illegally obtained in violation of your Miranda rights.

5. What are Examples of Petty Theft?

• Stealing $800 worth of electric power from your neighbor after running a cord from their electrical outlet into your home.

• Taking under $950 worth of items from a garage sale without paying for them.

• Grabbing $100 out of your friend’s wallet without their knowledge or consent.

• Taking $500 from the cash register from your employer without their knowledge or consent and spending the money on personal items.

6. Petty Theft Expungement

If you were convicted of petty theft, then you may be eligible to expunge your conviction after successful completion of your probation period. To obtain an expungement, a specific petition must be filed with the court along with proof of service. If the judge grants your petition, then you will be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from your conviction. This remedy carries considerable benefits if you’re applying for employment in the private sector. For more information, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers about your eligibility and process to expunge your record.

7. Free Criminal Defense Consultation

If you’ve been charged with petty theft under PC 484(a), then contact Criminal Defense Lawyer John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation.

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