Under California Penal Code Section 487 PC, grand theft occurs when someone unlawfully takes another’s property with a value exceeding $950. This law categorizes grand theft as a “wobbler,” which means the prosecutor can elect to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the details of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

The key legal criteria for a grand theft charge include:

  • Unlawful Taking: The individual must have taken property that did not belong to them.
  • Value: The value of the property must be more than $950, or it involves specific items like automobiles or firearms, regardless of their value.
  • Intent: At the time of the taking, there must be an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, or to remove it from the owner’s possession for a period extended enough to deprive the owner of a significant portion of its value or enjoyment.

Differentiating Between Petty Theft and Grand Theft

The primary distinction between petty theft and grand theft under California law hinges on the value of the stolen property:

  • Petty Theft (California Penal Code 484 PC): Involves the theft of property valued at $950 or less. Petty theft is generally charged as a misdemeanor and carries lighter penalties compared to grand theft.
  • Grand Theft: As defined, involves property valued over $950, or specific items like vehicles or firearms, which automatically categorize the theft as grand regardless of the item’s value.

If you or a loved one is facing grand theft charges, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney who understands the complexities of theft laws in California. Contact our office at (310) 448-1529 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case. Our dedicated attorney at The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi is here to provide the support and legal expertise you need every step of the way.





    Penalties and Consequences for Grand Theft Conviction

    In California, the penalties for grand theft under Penal Code Section 487 PC depend significantly on whether the prosecution charges the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony. The distinction can greatly affect the severity of the sentencing:

    • Misdemeanor Grand Theft: Conviction often results in up to one year in county jail. Judges may also impose fines, typically up to $1,000, depending on the case specifics.
    • Felony Grand Theft: If charged as a felony, the potential state prison sentence ranges from 16 months to 3 years. Felony charges also allow for fines up to $10,000.

    In both misdemeanor and felony cases, the court may order restitution payments to compensate the victim for their loss. Additionally, sentence enhancements apply if the stolen property exceeds certain values, leading to extended prison terms of 1 to 4 years if the property is valued above thresholds set at $65,000, $200,000, $1,300,000, or $3,200,000.

    Long-Term Impacts of a Grand Theft Conviction

    The long-term effects of a grand theft conviction extend beyond the immediate legal penalties and can have enduring repercussions on an individual’s personal and professional life:

    • Criminal Record: A grand theft conviction remains on your criminal record, potentially affecting future employment opportunities, especially in sectors that demand high levels of trust and integrity.
    • Employment Challenges: Employers often conduct background checks, and a theft conviction can jeopardize job prospects, particularly in financial, governmental, or sensitive industrial sectors.
    • Professional Licensing: Convictions may lead to the denial or revocation of professional licenses, crucial for careers in law, medicine, teaching, real estate, and others.
    • Immigration Status: Non-citizens may face severe immigration consequences including deportation, inadmissibility, or denial of naturalization as a consequence of a grand theft conviction.

    Key Elements of a Grand Theft Charge

    Essential Proof Requirements in Grand Theft Cases

    For a prosecutor to secure a conviction for grand theft, they must establish certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

    1. Ownership: The property in question belonged to someone other than the defendant.
    2. Possession: The defendant took possession of the property without permission.
    3. Value: The property’s value exceeded $950, or the property was an automobile or firearm.
    4. Intent: At the time of the theft, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property or to remove it temporarily in a manner that would deprive the owner of a significant portion of its value or enjoyment.

    The Role of Intent and Value in Determining Charges

    Intent and value are critical in determining how a grand theft charge is classified and prosecuted:

    • Intent: The defendant’s intention to steal must be proven for the theft to qualify as grand theft. This means showing that the defendant planned to permanently take away the property from its rightful owner or to withhold it long enough to significantly diminish its value or utility.
    • Value: The monetary value of the stolen property directly affects whether the theft is classified as petty or grand. Accurate valuation is crucial, and disputes over the value of stolen items can often be a focal point in defense strategies.

    Defending Against Grand Theft Charges

    Challenging the Valuation of Stolen Property

    A common defense strategy in grand theft cases revolves around contesting the prosecution’s claim about the value of the stolen property. Since the classification of theft as “grand” relies heavily on the property’s value exceeding $950, providing evidence that the value is less can change the nature of the charges or may even result in dismissal. Defense attorneys often employ expert appraisers to provide testimony or reports that challenge the initial valuations presented by the prosecution.

    Mistake of Fact and Lack of Intent as Defenses

    • Mistake of Fact: This defense applies when the defendant genuinely believed they had a right to the property or misunderstood a crucial fact about the property that negates criminal intent. Demonstrating a mistake of fact can effectively counter allegations of theft.
    • Lack of Intent: Since intent is a critical element required to prove grand theft, showing that the defendant lacked the intention to steal, or intended to return the property, can undermine the prosecution’s case. This argument can be particularly persuasive if the defendant can show actions consistent with these intentions.

    Asserting Ownership or Right to Possess

    Claiming rightful ownership or the legal right to possess the property at the time of the alleged theft is another strong defense. This requires demonstrating the defendant’s belief in their ownership or right to the property was reasonable under the circumstances, which can negate the theft charge.

    Why You Need an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney

    The Importance of Expert Legal Representation

    Facing a grand theft charge can have profound consequences, making expert legal representation indispensable. Skilled defense attorneys understand the complexities of theft laws and bring crucial expertise in challenging the prosecution’s evidence and presenting a compelling case for the defense. Their strategic involvement can significantly impact the case outcome, from reducing charges to achieving a favorable settlement or even a dismissal.

    Customizing Defense Tactics to Case Specifics

    Every grand theft case has unique aspects, and a seasoned criminal defense lawyer excels in tailoring defense strategies to the specifics of each case. Whether it involves challenging evidence, negotiating with prosecutors, or presenting mitigating factors to the court, expert attorneys adapt their tactics based on detailed analysis of the case facts, the client’s background, and the existing legal landscape. This customized approach ensures the most effective defense strategy is employed to protect the client’s rights and future.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Grand Theft Charges

    What Legal Thresholds Define Property Value for Grand Theft in California?

    In California, the legal threshold for grand theft is set at property valued over $950. This means if the stolen property’s value exceeds $950, the theft qualifies as grand theft under California Penal Code Section 487 PC. Specific types of property, such as automobiles and firearms, automatically fall under the grand theft category regardless of their value. Accurate valuation of the stolen property is crucial, as it directly influences the severity of charges and potential penalties.

    How Do Prior Convictions Influence Sentencing in Grand Theft Cases?

    Prior convictions can significantly impact sentencing in grand theft cases. If a defendant has previous theft-related convictions, this history can lead to harsher penalties under California’s three-strikes law, potentially resulting in longer prison terms. The court considers the defendant’s criminal history to assess their propensity towards criminal behavior, which in turn affects sentencing decisions. A history of similar offenses can lead to enhancements that impose stricter sentences, including potential state prison time for what might otherwise be a misdemeanor charge.

    Are There Specific Evidentiary Challenges in Defending Grand Theft Cases?

    Defending grand theft cases often involves complex evidentiary challenges. Key issues typically include:

    • Proving Intent: Demonstrating the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged theft can be complicated. The defense must often rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the lack of intent to commit theft.
    • Valuation of Property: Disputing the stated value of the stolen property is common, as the classification between petty and grand theft relies on the property’s appraised value. The defense may need to bring in expert witnesses to contest the prosecution’s valuation.
    • Ownership and Possession Claims: Proving that the defendant believed they had a rightful claim to the property or were otherwise authorized to possess it can be challenging, especially when ownership is disputed or documentation is unclear.

    Contact a Los Angeles Grand Theft Attorney

    California Penal Code Section 487 PCIf you or someone you know faces grand theft charges, The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi is ready to help by providing expert defense strategies tailored to your specific case. With over twenty years of experience in criminal defense, Attorney Arash Hashemi and his team have a deep understanding of the complexities involved in grand theft cases, ensuring your rights are vigorously defended and the best possible outcome is pursued.

    Located in the Westside Towers in the heart of Los Angeles, our firm proudly serves clients throughout Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood. Easily accessible from the Expo/Bundy Station, we prioritize your convenience and accessibility, especially during these challenging times. Understanding the need for thorough case discussion, we also offer weekend appointments and are available for jail visits.

    For expert assistance with grand theft charges and to develop a defense strategy customized to the nuances of your case, do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach our office at (310) 448-1529 or schedule your consultation online. Our commitment is to stand by your side, ensuring you are fully informed of your legal options and advocating for your rights at every step of your case.





      11845 W Olympic Blvd #520, Los Angeles, CA 90064

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      Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to predict outcomes, as individual circumstances vary and laws may change over time. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified attorney to understand how current laws apply to their specific situation. For detailed legal guidance on the topics discussed, please contact our law firm directly.