Posted on February 5, 2016

“Theft by False Pretenses” │ California Penal Code 532 PC

In California, “False Pretenses” is a form of theft charged under Penal Code 532(a). The punishment for this offense, as discussed later in this article, will depend largely on the value of the item(s) or money conveyed. The legal issue often litigated under this charge is usually whether you made a false representation of a fact to defraud another or whether the accusation is sufficiently corroborated. Note however, you may still be charged with false pretenses if you recklessly represented something without justification or reasonable belief or omitting to represent a fact when you have an obligation to do so. This article will address 7 important things you should know about theft by false pretenses.

1. When Should I Retain a Theft Crimes Lawyer?

Early intervention by a Theft Crimes Lawyer is critical for a successful defense to theft by false pretenses. With the passage of time, crucial evidence to your defense is liable to be destroyed or lost, and material witness’s memories fade. The Law Offices of John D. Rogers make it a point to contact witnesses early on, and submit notices to individuals, business, and/or organization to preserve all evidence as it may be material to a criminal investigation. Furthermore, without the presence of a lawyer, you may give an incriminating statement to law enforcement that will assist the government in proving your guilt. By hiring counsel, Mr. Rogers will speak with police on your behalf to ensure nothing incriminating is elicited against you.

2. What is the Legal Definition of Theft by False Pretenses?

PC 532(a) defines theft by false pretenses as “Every person who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of money, labor, or property, whether real or personal, 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 possession of money or property, or obtains the labor or service of another is guilty of theft by false pretenses.”

3. What Must the Prosecutor Prove for False Pretenses?

According to CALCRIM 1804, in order to prove you’re guilty of theft by false pretenses under PC 532(a), the government holds the burden to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. You knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner or their agent by false or fraudulent representation or pretenses;

2. You did so intending to persuade the owner or their agent to let you take possession and ownership of the property;

3. The owner or owner’s agent let you have possession and ownership of the property because the owner or owner’s agent relied on the false representation or pretense;

4. When you received the property, you intended to deprive the owner either permanently or for an extended period of time.

4. What are the Legal Defenses to Theft by False Pretenses?

• You did not knowingly and/or intentionally deceive another, but instead your representation was made in jest or on accident.

• You received knowledge or information from another and not money, property, labor, or services.

• You did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property or the owner was not deprived of the properties major use of enjoyment.

• The physical evidence was illegally obtained by police officers in violation of your search & seizure rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

• The evidence is not supported by a writing or false token; or a single witnesses testimony is uncorroborated.

• Your accuser is fabricating or exaggerating the circumstances.

• You reasonably believed your representation was true and accurate.

5. What is the Punishment for Theft by False Pretenses?

The punishment for false pretenses will depend on the amount of money or property taken. If the value of the item or money is $950 or less, then you face up to 6 months in the county jail. If the value of the item(s) or money exceeds $950, then you’ll be charged with grand theft which can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. A felony conviction carries 16, 2, or 3 years in county jail, plus any additional time if any enhancements are alleged and proven.

Fortunately, if you’re convicted of a felony, you may be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor upon successful completion of your probation under PC 17(b). If granted reduction, the conviction will be a misdemeanor “for all purposes” and you will no longer be recognized as someone whose been convicted of a felony. When making this determination, the judge will consider the following:

• Whether you suffered from any probation violations

• The planning and/or sophistication of your crime

• The value of the item(s) or monies gained from your crime

• Your prior criminal history

• The reason you’re seeking reduction – e.g., military, child custody, employment, etc.

6. Can I Expunge my Record?

A conviction for theft by false pretenses may be expunged if: 1) you’re off probation; and 2) you have no cases pending against you. This remedy is brought under California PC 1203.4 and requires a specific petition to be filed with the court. If you petition is granted, the court will withdraw its finding of guilt, enter a not guilty plea, and dismiss the case releasing you from all penalties and disability resulting from your conviction. Most individuals seek this remedy because it carries considerable benefits in the public employment sector. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to discuss your expungement eligibility.

7. Free Criminal Defense Consultation

The Law Offices of John D. Rogers provides free confidential consultations to those who’ve been charged, arrested, or are currently under investigation for theft by false pretenses under PC 532(a). Contact us today to schedule a consultation with absolutely no obligations.

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