PETTY THEFT DEFENSE ATTORNEY ORANGE COUNTY CA

If you intentionally and unlawfully take someone else’s property, without their consent, with the intent to steal that property, you could be charged with the crime of petty theft under Orange County law. Although petty theft is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor crime, you could face felony charges and more severe penalties in certain cases, depending on your criminal history and the type and value of the property that was allegedly stolen. Being arrested for or charged with petty theft in Orange County requires immediate intervention by a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience defending petty theft cases. A reputable theft crimes defense lawyer may be able to get your petty theft charges reduced to an infraction or could possibly get the charges dismissed altogether. When it comes to defending yourself against petty theft charges, there is no substitute for skill and years of experience in criminal defense. Contact our theft crime defense lawyers at Seyb Law Group today to learn about the best defense strategies for fighting petty theft charges in Orange County.

Affordable Orange County Petty Theft Defense Attorney

At Seyb Law Group, we know that developing a strong defense to combat petty theft charges takes patience, talent and a clear understanding of the Orange County criminal justice system, and we realize how significantly a criminal conviction can affect your life and your family, which is why we got into criminal defense in the first place. Over the years, our criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group have earned a reputation for aggressively representing the criminally accused in Orange County and the surrounding communities against petty theft and other criminal offenses, and we are committed to protecting the rights of individuals facing any type of criminal charge. Consult our legal team at Seyb Law Group today for a free evaluation of your petty theft case.

Petty Theft

Petty theft is one of the most common Orange County theft crimes charged by prosecutors and while the majority of petty theft crimes involve shoplifting, there are other theft crimes that can result in petty theft charges being filed. Generally speaking, petty theft is the unlawful taking of property that doesn’t belong to you, without consent, with the intent to steal that property. Under Orange County law, any theft crime that meets the following criteria may be charged as petty theft:

  • The value of the stolen property is $950 or less,
  • The property was not taken directly from another person (robbery or mugging), and
  • The stolen property was not an automobile or firearm.

Some examples of activity that can lead to petty theft charges in Orange County include: stealing a $500 tablet from a shipment of tablets you are delivering for your boss, shoplifting textbooks worth a few hundred dollars from your college bookstore, and “borrowing” a $300 power tool from your neighbor when you have no intention of returning it.

California Petty Theft Penal Code § 484(a) PC & § 488 PC

The crime of petty theft in Orange County is covered under PC § 484(a) and PC § 488, which state the following:

“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.”

The most common type of petty theft involves physically taking property that belongs to someone else, a crime known as petty theft by larceny. However, there are a number of theft crimes that can be charged as violations of PC § 484(a) and PC § 488, so long as the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950:

  • Theft by larceny – Unlawfully taking someone else’s property – without that person’s permission and with the intent to either deprive the owner of the property, either permanently or for a significant period of time – and moving the property, even a small distance (shoplifting a shirt from your favorite clothing store during business hours)
  • Theft by trick – Unlawfully tricking a person into willingly handing over their property for what they believe to be a temporary period, but which turns out to be permanent (the owner of a jewelry store keeps for himself jewelry customers have brought in for repairs)
  • Theft by false pretense – Unlawfully deceiving a property owner into handing over their property using a false claim or pretense (a person pretending to be a parking lot attendant tells people who want to park their cars there that parking costs $20)
  • Theft by embezzlement – Unlawfully taking ownership of property that has been entrusted to you; also known as “employee theft” (stealing funds from business or client accounts that you have access to because of your job)

The crime of shoplifting (PC § 459.5) is one that is closely related to petty theft in Orange County, occurring when any person enters a commercial establishment with the intent to steal merchandise valued at $950 or less. In other words, Orange County shoplifting is the crime of entering an open business intending to commit the crime of petty theft and shoplifting only became a separate offense in Orange County when Proposition 47 passed in 2014. Prior to that, the crime of shoplifting could have been charged under Orange County’s burglary law (PC § 459). Other Orange County theft crimes related to, but separate from, the crime of petty theft include: grand theft – PC § 487, robbery – PC § 211 and embezzlement – PC § 503.

What is the Difference Between Petty Theft and Grand Theft?

Petty theft and grand theft are very similar crimes in Orange County, the primary differences between the two offenses being the value of the property that you are accused of stealing and the punishment for a criminal conviction. In most cases, an Orange County theft crime is charged as petty theft and not grand theft if the property that was allegedly stolen is worth $950 or less. If the value of the property is more than $950, the very same crime could be charged as grand theft, which carries steeper penalties. In fact, before Proposition 47 was passed, a theft crime was always charged as grand theft if the stolen property was a car, a firearm, or was taken “from the person” of the property owner (i.e. pickpocketed), regardless of the value of the property. Today, you can still be charged with Orange County grand theft for these types of theft, even if the stolen property is worth less than $950, if you have one of the following prior criminal convictions on your record:

  • A sex crime that comes with a registered sex offender requirement, or
  • An especially serious or violent felony, such as murder, attempted murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a forcible sex crime or a sex crime involving a minor under the age of 14.

Penalties for a Petty Theft Conviction in Orange County

Theft crimes are treated seriously in Orange County, especially those that involve theft by trick, false pretense or embezzlement, and depending on the specific details of your petty theft case, the penalties resulting from a conviction can be harsh. In the majority of cases, petty theft is prosecuted as a misdemeanor crime punishable by informal probation, up to six months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. However, if you have a certain prior theft conviction on your record, for which there was a jail sentence, and you are arrested for a subsequent petty theft offense, you could be charged with petty theft with a prior pursuant to PC § 666, a “wobbler” offense that can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony. If you are convicted of a felony violation of PC § 666 in Orange County, you could face a sentence of 16 months, two years or three years in state prison. Plus, the petty theft conviction would show up on any criminal background check conducted by potential employers or landlords, which could adversely affect your future employment and housing prospects.

Orange County Petty Theft Defense

A petty theft conviction carries surprisingly severe consequences. Fortunately, there are certain legal defenses your attorney can raise on your behalf that can be helpful in fighting petty theft charges. For instance, if you didn’t knowingly steal the property, or if you reasonably believed that the property belonged to you at the time the alleged crime occurred, your defense attorney can use these facts to challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you. No matter how your petty theft charges came about, the prosecution will bear the burden of proof in your case, which means you are legally presumed innocent by the court until the prosecution can establish each of the following “elements” of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You took possession of property owned by someone else;
  • You took the property without the owner’s consent;
  • When you took the property, you intended to remove it from the owner’s possession;
  • You moved the property, no matter how short the distance, and kept it for any period of time, no matter how brief; and
  • The value of the property was $950 or less.

Best Defense Strategies in Orange County Petty Theft Cases

One of the most important things to remember when facing criminal charges is that you still have rights under the law, one of the most vital being your right to legal counsel. With a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side who understands Orange County petty theft crime laws and how they apply to your case, you can build a solid defense that disputes the prosecution’s version of events. Some common defense strategies used in Orange County petty theft cases include the following:

  • Lack of intent – Because the crime of petty theft involves the key element of intent, the most common defense in petty theft cases is lack of intent. In other words, if you inadvertently took someone else’s property without the intent to steal it, your attorney can use “lack of intent” as a valid defense in your case.
  • Claim of Right – If, at the time of the alleged crime, the property in question belonged to you, or you honestly and reasonably believed it belonged to you, you cannot be lawfully found guilty of petty theft.
  • Consent – If the owner of the property consented to its removal, or you honestly and reasonably believed that the owner consented to its removal, you would not be criminally liable under Orange County petty theft law.
  • False accusation – If you were falsely accused of stealing someone else’s property, your attorney may be able to get your petty theft charges dismissed.

How Hiring a Petty Theft Defense Attorney Can Help

Facing petty theft charges can be extremely confusing and stressful, and having a criminal defense attorney on your side who has experience defending petty theft cases is critical to protecting your rights and avoiding the consequences of a theft crime conviction. For instance, depending on the circumstances of your case, your criminal defense attorney may be able to get your petty theft charge reduced to an infraction under Penal Code § 490.1 PC (typically if the value of the stolen property is $50 or less), an offense punishable by a maximum fine of $250. Or, if your alleged petty theft crime is a first-time offense, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to allow you to complete a diversion program to avoid a criminal conviction and time in jail.

Contact Our Skilled Petty Theft Defense Attorneys Today

Any time you are facing criminal charges in Orange County, it is imperative that you fully understand the charges against you and what your legal rights are under the law, so you can adequately defend yourself in court. Our petty theft defense lawyers at Seyb Law Group provide experienced, knowledgeable legal help to those who have been charged with a crime in Orange County or the surrounding counties. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Orange County petty theft, don’t risk a conviction. Contact our Orange County criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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