Is Grand Theft a Felony or Misdemeanor Under California Law? PC 487(a)

January 21, 2023

Grand Theft, as defined by California Penal Code 487(a), is the unlawful taking of another person’s property with a value of over $950. The severity of the crime, and thus the potential punishment, depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

In general, grand theft in California can be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When a crime can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, it is called a “wobbler.” The decision of whether to charge a defendant with a felony or misdemeanor will depend on the facts of the case, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and the prosecutor’s discretion.

A felony grand theft conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to three years, while a misdemeanor grand theft conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. Additionally, a felony conviction may also result in fines, restitution, and a loss of certain rights, such as the right to vote or own a firearm.

There are several factors that can affect the classification of grand theft as a felony or misdemeanor. One of the most significant factors is the value of the property stolen. If the value of the property stolen is over $950, the crime will generally be charged as a felony. However, if the value of the property stolen is less than $950, the crime will generally be charged as a misdemeanor petty theft.

Another important factor is the type of property stolen. Certain types of property, such as firearms or cars, may be considered “aggravated” grand thefts, which are always charged as felonies. Additionally, if the theft was committed during the commission of another crime, such as burglary or robbery, it may also be classified as a felony.

A defendant’s criminal history can also affect the classification of grand theft. If a defendant has prior convictions for grand theft or other theft-related crimes, they may be more likely to be charged with a felony. Additionally, if a defendant has a history of violent or dangerous crimes, they may also be more likely to be charged with a felony.

Finally, the prosecutor’s discretion plays a large role in determining whether grand theft will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. A prosecutor may choose to charge a defendant with a felony or misdemeanor based on the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, and their discretion.

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Grand theft can be a technical crime with multiple elements, and the legal defenses available will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. You must work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can review the evidence against you, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and advise you on the best defense strategy.

If you’re being accused of grand theft under PC 487(a), then call the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today. Contact us to schedule a free confidential consultation to discuss your options. Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. He routinely represents clients charged with theft crimes in both state and federal court.

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