California Theft Charges
Theft (or larceny) crimes cover a wide range of offenses in California, from petty theft and shoplifting to serious crimes like armed robbery or large-scale embezzlement and fraud. All of them, no matter how large or small, should be taken seriously. A theft conviction has a special power to harm your future, because employers are often reluctant to hire people with a past conviction. If you have a professional license from the state, a theft conviction — even one that has nothing to do with your job — can still lead to professional discipline. And theft is a "crime of moral turpitude" under immigration law, so a conviction can lead to deportation if you're not a citizen.
That's why it's vital to defend yourself from theft charges. The Law Offices of Joseph M. Tysel defends all kinds of theft crimes, including:
- Passing bad checks
- Petty theft (any left of property valued at less than $950
- Grand theft (theft of $950 or more), including grand theft auto or firearm
- Burglary of a home, car, office or other structure
- Receiving stolen property (fencing)
- Identity theft, including credit card fraud or hacking
- All types of fraud, including forgery
- Embezzlement, extortion and other "white-collar" crimes
Penalties for Theft, Burglary, Robbery and Fraud
California puts many crimes under the umbrella name "theft." This includes offenses you might not think of as theft, such as forging documents. All types of theft involve taking someone else's property without permission — including taking it through force or fear, fraud, tricks and deception, breaking and entering, abuses of trust and assuming someone else's identity.
As a rule, a first petty theft conviction is a misdemeanor. If the value of the property stolen is under $50, the Joseph Tysel Law Offices can often negotiate to have it charged as an infraction, a lesser offense that keeps a criminal conviction off your record.
However, if you have a prior theft conviction, any later petty theft could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, according to the prosecutor's judgment.
Grand thefts can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, with a felony charge carrying 16 months to three years in prison. Grand theft of a firearm is always a felony and also counts as a "strike" under the three-strikes law. In addition, you're much more likely to be charged with a felony as the value of the property rises, and face additional time on the sentence for thefts of $65,000 and above.
Defending Theft Crimes
Despite their seriousness, theft crimes offer many possible defenses. Most of all, the prosecution must prove you intended to commit the theft in order to convict you — and intent is hard to prove. You can also successfully defend yourself if you believed the property was yours or that you had permission to use it, even if you were mistaken. If you're accused of deception or tricks, you can defend yourself by showing you never knowingly made false statements, or never intended to do anything differently from how you said you'd do it.
There are also multiple opportunities to reduce penalties for a theft conviction. For a first petty theft charge or a charge of passing bad checks, California offers a diversion program similar to Drug Court. In this program, your conviction is suspended while you complete probation, repay the value of the stolen goods, attend classes and perform community service. If you can meet these requirements and stay out of trouble, the charge can be dismissed altogether. People accused of more serious theft crimes may not be eligible for the diversion program, but the Joseph Tysel Law Offices can often negotiate to have multiple charges reduced into one or felonies reduced to misdemeanors, limiting the damage of the criminal conviction.
Call Us to Discuss Your Legal Options
If you're charged with any kind of theft in California and you'd like to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you should call the Law Offices of Joseph M. Tysel today. To tell me your story and see how I can help, send me an email or call my main office in Santa Ana at (714) 953-7414.