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Theft (otherwise known as larceny) is the taking, with the intent to permanently withhold, the property of another. This property could include personal property (wallets, phones, purses), money, real property (real estate) and even the value of labor or services (refusal to pay for work commissioned).

There are two main classifications of theft under California law and they depend on the monetary value of the thing taken. If the value is below $950, the law typically defines that as petty theft if there are no aggravated circumstances. If the value is over $950, it is defined as grand theft or grand larceny.

For petty theft, the penalties range from imprisonment to a citation for an infraction, again depending largely on value. For petty theft of something valued at closer to the classification ceiling - like stereo equipment valued at $900 - the penalty could be up to 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $1000. For petty theft of something valued at under $50, you may just get the slap on the wrist of an infraction and a fine not to exceed $250.

For grand theft, the stakes are much higher. Grand theft can either result in a county jail prison term of up to a year or if felony sentencing is permitted by statute, a prison sentence of up to 3 years and fines.

Defenses to a theft charge would include claims of actual ownership, mistake of fact or law, evidence of the owner's consent, entrapment and, in some instances, intoxication resulting in a lack of intent to steal.


Ultimately, the taking of property should not take away a defendant's life moving forward. Anyone can be falsely accused or make a mistake and strong, experienced legal counsel can help to minimize the repercussions of either.


List of Shoplifting and Kleptomania Resource in California 

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