California "Grand Theft" Law
(Penal Code 487 PC)

The crime of theft in California law is defined as the unlawful taking of someone else's property.1

And when the property taken is valued at more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), then the theft is considered the California crime of grand theft under Penal Code 487 PC.2

A grand theft conviction on your record can have all sorts of professional and personal repercussions. And, unfortunately, the California grand theft statute allows grand theft charges to be filed against people who made one or two mistakes that, at the time, seemed minor.

Examples of actions that can lead to grand theft charges in California include:

  • Shoplifting a piece of jewelry that has a $1000 price tag,
  • Embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from an employer, and
  • Breaking into a house and stealing electronics worth several thousand dollars.
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Shoplifting at a high-end store can easily invite California grand
theft charges.

Penalties

In most cases, the offense of grand theft in California is a wobbler.  This means that the prosecutor may choose to charge you with either misdemeanor or felony grand theft.3

The maximum potential sentence for misdemeanor grand theft is up to one (1) year in county jail.

For felony grand theft, you may be sentenced to sixteen (16) months, two (2) years, or three (3) years of incarceration.4

Legal defenses

With the help of an experienced California criminal defense attorney, you may be able to beat grand theft charges using certain common legal defenses.  In a typical grand theft case, these might include asserting the position that:

  • You did not intend to steal,
  • The allegedly stolen property actually belonged to you,
  • The person who owned the item consented to you taking it, and/or
  • You were falsely accused.

In order to help you better understand the crime of California grand theft under Penal Code 484 & 487 PC, our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following:

1. The Legal Definition of Grand Theft in California

1.1. Theft by larceny

1.2. Theft by false pretense

1.3. Theft by trick

1.4. Theft by embezzlement

2. What Is the Difference Between California Grand Theft and California Petty Theft?

3. Penalties for Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft in California

3.1. "Wobbler" penalties

3.2. Grand theft firearm penalties

3.3. Penalty enhancements

3.4. Multiple counts of grand theft in the same case

4. Legal Defenses to Grand Theft Charges

5. Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft and Related Offenses

5.1. Penal Code 484 & 488 PC petty theft

5.2. Penal Code 666 PC petty theft with a prior

5.3. Grand theft auto

5.4. Penal Code 459 PC burglary and auto burglary

5.5. Penal Code 211 PC robbery

5.6. Penal Code 470 PC forgery

If after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. The Legal Definition of Grand Theft in California

The legal definition of grand theft in California is based on certain key facts. These facts are called "elements of the crime." In order for you to be guilty of California grand theft, the prosecutor must be able to prove every element of the crime. And the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are different ways one can commit grand theft. The elements of the offense of grand theft depend on the kind of grand theft that is being charged.

1.1. Grand theft by larceny

Simply put, the form of theft known as "larceny" occurs when you physically carry off another person's tangible property.

The legal definition of grand theft by larceny is:

  1. You took possession of property owned by someone else;
  2. You didn't have permission from the owner to take the property;
  3. When you took the property, you intended either
  4. a. to deprive the owner of it permanently, or

    b. to take it away from the owner of it for a period of time long enough that s/he would be deprived of a significant portion of the value or enjoyment of it; AND
  5. You moved the property (this can be a very short distance) and kept it for a period of time (however brief).5
Example: Aaron is a 17-year-old boy. His next-door neighbor Chad has just purchased a dirt bike costing several thousand dollars.

Aaron is very jealous of the bike. One day when Chad is not home, Aaron enters his garage, removes the dirt bike, and takes it to his own garage, where he hides it.

All along Aaron has had a vague intention to return the dirt bike to Chad eventually. But he really enjoys having the bike and takes it out regularly for secret rides. Before he knows it, six months have passed.

Aaron may be charged with grand theft for taking Chad's bike. Even though he intended to return it, he did take it without Chad's permission . . . and ended up keeping it for a long enough time to deprive Chad of a significant portion of the enjoyment of it.

It may be surprising to hear...but simple shoplifting cases can lead to charges of grand theft by larceny, if the total value of the stolen items exceeds $950.00. Several high-profile shoplifting cases involving celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Winona Ryder-in which grand theft charges were filed-have brought the concept of grand theft by shoplifting to the public's attention.6

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1.2. Grand theft by false pretense

The second form of grand theft is known as "theft by false pretenses" (California Penal Code 532 PC).

Found in Penal Code 532, the legal definition of this form of grand theft is as follows:

  1. You knowingly and intentionally deceived somebody by telling him/her something that wasn't true (this is known as "making a false pretense");
  2. You made the false pretense intending to persuade that person to let you take possession of their property; AND
  3. The person relied on your false pretense and so let you take possession and ownership of their property.7

What is "making a false pretense"?

The concept of "making a false pretense" is not completely obvious and deserves some explanation.

Under California law, you commit theft by false pretenses if you:

  1. intend to deceive someone else, AND
  2. do one of the following things:
a. Say something that you know is false,

b. Recklessly claim something is true when you have no reason to believe it is,

c. Fail to provide information that you have an obligation to provide, OR

d. Make a promise that you don't intend to fulfill.8

Example: Marsha is having financial difficulties and is several months' overdue on her car payment. Her niece Tonya makes the following proposal: if Marsha signs over title to the car to Tonya, Tonya will start making the car payments for Marsha. Tonya will then let Marsha continue to use the car for the next couple of years for free.

So Marsha signs over title to her car to Tonya. Tonya continues to let Marsha use the car. But Tonya does not make any of the payments Marsha owes on her car loan as she promised.

Moreover, Tonya uses the car title to take out another loan backed by the car in her own name...and spends the cash on other things. Eventually the car is repossessed.

Tonya may be guilty of grand theft by false pretenses. She made Marsha a promise she didn't intend to keep...and as a result got Marsha to sign over ownership of her car.

Reliance

For you to be guilty of the crime of grand theft by false pretenses, the other person needs to have given you his property because he relied on your false pretense.9

This just means that the false pretense has to be one important reason why the person turned his property over to you. It does not have to be the only reason.10

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Evidence required for charges of for grand theft by false pretenses

If the prosecutor charges you with grand theft by false pretense, there are certain special evidence requirements that s/he must meet. Specifically, the prosecution will need one of the following showing that you actually made a false pretense:

  • A false writing or "false token" (this is often some kind of fake document...like a fake check or contract),
  • A writing that sets out the false pretense, signed or handwritten by you,
  • Testimony from at least two witnesses, OR
  • Testimony from one witness plus some other evidence.11

Why do these requirements exist only for false pretenses grand theft?  The reason is that it's very easy for someone to get involved in a business deal that involves them handing over property to someone else...then have second thoughts, and falsely accuse the other person of having used false pretenses to get the property.

California law recognizes this possibility and tries to guard against it by requiring more than just one person's testimony for a grand theft by false pretenses conviction.

1.3. Grand theft by trick

The legal definition of grand theft by trick...the third form of grand theft...is:

  1. You obtained property that someone else owned (and you knew it was owned by someone else);
  2. You used fraud or deceit to get the property owner to let you take possession of his/her property;
  3. You took possession of the property intending to either
  4. a. deprive the owner of it permanently, or

    b. take it away from the owner of it for a period of time long enough that s/he would be deprived of a significant portion of the value or enjoyment of property;
  5. You kept the property for a period of time (even a very brief period); AND
  6. The property owner didn't intend to transfer ownership of the property to you.12

Grand theft by trick is very similar to grand theft by false pretense, but there is one key difference. With grand theft by false pretense, the person whose property is taken lets the defendant have both possession and ownership of the property (this can mean, for example, formal title to the property).

But with grand theft by trick, the idea is that the person lets the defendant take only possession of the property...without any intention to let him/her take ownership of it.13

Example: Marsha's car needs to be repaired, but she cannot take time off from work to take it to the shop. Her niece Tonya offers to drop her off at work and take the car in for her. But Tonya has no intention of bringing the car back. Instead, she and her boyfriend drive it over the state line and leave Marsha stranded.

This may be a case of grand theft by trick. Tonya tricked Marsha into giving her possession of the car...but not formal ownership of it.

1.4. Theft by embezzlement

You can also be charged with grand theft for committing the California crime of embezzlement.14

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Here are the elements that make up the legal definition of grand theft by embezzlement:

  1. You were entrusted with certain property by the owner of that property;
  2. The property owner put you in a position of trust with respect to the property;
  3. You took or used that property fraudulently, to benefit yourself; and
  4. You had the intent to deprive the owner of the property...either permanently or temporarily.15

So even if you intended eventually to return the property...you may still have committed grand theft by embezzlement.16

Example: Sarah is the manager of a high-end jewelry store. One Friday when she is closing the store, she "borrows" several thousand dollars' worth of jewelry to wear to a wedding she will be attending out of town that weekend. Her intention is to return the pieces the following Tuesday, when she goes back to work.

Sarah would probably be surprised to learn that she may be charged with California grand theft by embezzlement under Penal Code 484 & 487 PC. Even though she intended to return the jewelry, she did intend to deprive the store of it temporarily...which is enough to support grand theft by embezzlement charges.

One more note about the four types of grand theft we have just described: If the prosecutor alleges that you are guilty of California grand theft under more than one of these theories, the jury doesn't have to agree on which one you violated.  The jury must only agree that you unlawfully took the property of someone else in one of those ways.17

The jury must, however, unanimously agree as to whether you committed Penal Code 487 grand theft or Penal Code 488 PC petty theft.  If they can't unanimously agree that you committed grand theft . . . but unanimously agree that you committed a theft . . . , you will be convicted of the lesser crime of California petty theft instead.18

2. What Is the Difference Between California Grand Theft and California Petty Theft?

The legal definition of "grand theft" under Penal Code 487 PC is almost identical to that of the less serious crime of petty theft (shoplifting) under California law.19 The difference between the two lies in the value of the property that is stolen.

To be more specific, an act of theft will be considered grand theft if the property taken is worth more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).20

This was not always the case. Prior to the passage of Proposition 47 in November of 2014, you could also be charged with grand theft for taking property worth $950 or less, if any of the following were true:

  • The property taken included a firearm,
  • The property taken included an automobile,
  • The property taken included certain animals (such as a horse, sheep, or pig), OR
  • The property was taken off the person of its owner (that is, off of his/her body or clothing or from a container held by him/her).21

And grand theft penalties still apply to thefts of those sorts of property, regardless of its value, if the defendant has one of the following prior convictions on his/her record:

  • sex offense convictions that require them to register under California's sex offender registration act, or
  • certain serious felony convictions (including murder, rape, sexually violent offenses, and child molestation).22
Example: Paul steals a very old car that is only worth around $500. Paul is also a registered sex offender because of a prior conviction for rape.
The value of the property he stole is less than $950, so ordinarily Paul would be charged with petty theft. But his prior rape conviction makes him subject to grand theft penalties for stealing any vehicle--so he will face grand theft charges.
Img-theft-blue-car

Theft of a car could be petty theft, if the car is very low value.

Finally, you can also be charged with grand theft if you repeatedly take money, labor, personal property, etc. from your employer...and the total value of the property stolen totals more than $950 during any 12-month period.23

Example: Laura works at the perfume counter of a department store. Every month, she quietly takes a bottle of perfume costing around $100 without paying for it. After ten months, she is caught. She may be charged with grand theft even though the individual items she took were worth much less than $950...because, added together, their total value was around $1000.

3. Penalties for Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft in California

3.1. "Wobbler" penalties

California Penal Code 487 PC "grand theft" is, in most cases, a wobbler in California law. This means that the prosecutor may charge this offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony.24

The decision to file charges for misdemeanor grand theft or felony grand theft is up to the prosecutor's discretion. S/he will usually base the decision on

  1. the circumstances of your case, and
  2. your criminal history.

If you are convicted of grand theft as a misdemeanor, you face up to one (1) year in a county jail.25

If you are convicted of grand theft as a felony, you face:

  • felony probation with up to one year of county jail time, or
  • sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in county jail (unless the theft was of a firearm).26

3.2. Grand theft firearm penalties

If you commit grand theft of a firearm (also known as grand theft firearm), the offense is always a felony. There is no misdemeanor charge option in that case.27

The potential sentence for grand theft firearm is sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in California state prison.28

Also -- unlike other kinds of California grand theft -- grand theft firearm is considered a "serious" felony under Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC. This means that grand theft firearm is a "strike" offense under California's three strikes law.29

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3.3. Penalty enhancements

In addition to the penalties noted above, if your grand theft charges are brought as felony charges, you can receive an additional and consecutive prison sentence if the value of the property you stole was particularly high.

The potential sentence enhancements for felony grand theft of high-value property are an additional:

  • One (1) year if the property was worth more than sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000),
  • Two (2) years if the property was worth more than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000),
  • Three (3) years if the property was worth more than one million three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000), and
  • Four (4) years if the property was worth more than three million two hundred thousand dollars ($3,200,000).30

In determining the value of property stolen for sentence enhancement purposes, courts will add together the value of all property stolen under a common scheme or plan.31

3.4. Multiple counts of grand theft in the same case

On that note...what happens if you commit multiple acts of grand theft against the same person (often an employer)?

According to Long Beach criminal defense attorney John Murray32:

"If you are accused of multiple acts of theft, you may be charged with more than one count of grand theft...and receive a conviction and sentence for each count. However, this is NOT the case if the multiple grand thefts were all part of one common plan or scheme. If the incidents of theft were part of one common plan or scheme, you can only be charged with one count of grand theft."

Example: Scott works for an import-export company in Van Nuys. He has embezzled from his employer on three occasions. On the first, he was entrusted with a large amount of cash and took $1000 of it, hoping his boss wouldn't notice.

On the second occasion, Scott accepted a large delivery of merchandise for his boss. He opened the package and kept about $1400 worth of the merchandise. He told his boss that some of the expected contents had been missing when delivered.The third occasion was identical to the second...except Scott kept $1200 worth of merchandise this time.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office charges Scott with three counts of California grand theft. The DA argues that each act of theft was a distinct offense.

However, Scott hires a theft crimes defense lawyer who argues instead that Scott had an overall plan to steal from his employer any time he had the opportunity to do so...and that the three incidents of embezzlement were all pursuant to that plan. By doing so, he may be able to reduce Scott's charges and overall sentence from three counts to one.33

4. Legal Defenses to Grand Theft Charges

Depending on the circumstances of your case, there are a variety of legal defenses that a California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf.  Some of these are:

Lack of intent

If you didn't have the intent to steal, you can't be convicted of grand theft - period!34

This means that if your California grand theft attorney can convince the prosecutor, judge, and/or jury that you simply made a mistake or were being absent-minded...then you can't be convicted of grand theft.

For example, while browsing in an upscale store, you may have accidentally left the store carrying an item of clothing worth more than $950.

Or, while making a delivery for an employer, you may have absent-mindedly driven home with more than $950 of merchandise still in your car.

Under scenarios like these, you can argue that you should be acquitted of grand theft based on lack of intent.

Claim of right

If you obtained the property under a claim of right-that is, if you had an honest and reasonable belief that it actually belonged to you-then you can't be convicted of grand theft.

Not only that...but this "claim of right" defense applies as long as you had a good faith belief that the property belonged to you . . .  regardless of whether that belief was correct.35

However, this defense will not apply if you attempted to conceal the taking at the time it occurred or after it was discovered.  You will also be barred from asserting this as a defense if the property was something you owned illegally (illicit drugs, for example).

Consent

If the owner of the property consented to you taking it...you are not guilty of the offense of grand theft.

That said, there is a caveat: your use of the property must fall within the scope of that consent.  That means that if you obtained consent to use the property in a specific way or for a specific purpose...but used it in a different way or for a different purpose...you may not be able to rely on this legal defense.

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False accusations

Countless people are falsely accused-framed-and wrongly arrested for California embezzlement and other grand theft offenses.  Oftentimes, a business deal gone sour can lead to false accusations of grand theft by false pretenses or embezzlement.

Therefore, this is a common and helpful potential legal defense.

5. Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft and Related Offenses

There are a number of similar and/or related California offenses that may be charged along with-or instead of-Penal Code 487 PC grand theft. Some of these are:

5.1. Penal Code 484 & 488 PC petty theft

As we discussed above, Penal Code 488 PC petty theft has an almost identical legal definition to Penal Code 487 PC grand theft. The difference is that petty theft will be charged when the property stolen is worth $950 or less.36

It could be that the value of the property you stole is in dispute. For example, if you stole antiques from someone's home, and those items had not been purchased or appraised for years, you may be able to argue that you should be convicted of petty theft  -- not grand theft  -- because the value of the items was $950 or less.

And even if the jury is convinced you committed theft -- but is not convinced the value of the items exceeded $950 --they may convict you of petty theft instead of grand theft.37

California petty theft is a misdemeanor offense. The potential penalties are a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), up to six (6) months in county jail, or both.38

5.2. Penal Code 666 PC petty theft with a prior

However, for defendants who have prior theft crime convictions on their record, the penalties for a petty theft conviction can be significantly steeper.

Under California's "petty theft with a prior law," Penal Code 666 PC, if you have

  1. a single theft crime conviction AND a prior conviction for a serious violent felony like murder or rape or for a sex offense that leads to a sex offender registration requirement, OR
  2. a prior theft crime conviction for theft from or fraud from an elderly person in violation of California's elder abuse laws,

and you are then convicted of petty theft . . . the offense may become a wobbler and lead to felony penalties.39

5.3. Grand theft auto

You may have heard of the California crimes of grand theft auto. It is -- like grand theft firearm -- simply a variant of the broader crime of grand theft. It may, however, carry a different penalty.

California grand theft auto under Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC is another name for the offense of grand theft when the property stolen is an automobile. (The less serious crime of "joyriding" under Vehicle Code 10851 VC is also sometimes referred to as "grand theft auto.") Grand theft auto is usually charged as a felony.

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This photograph  was originally taken by Flickr user gruntzooki/Cory Doctorow and the original photo can be found here.

Contrary to what you might think in light of the popular Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, vehicle theft is on the decline. According to the LAPD, reported vehicle thefts in Los Angeles declined to 15,180 in 2011 from 22,623 in 2008 and 31,709 in 2001.40

5.4. Penal Code 459 PC burglary and auto burglary

Penal Code 459 PC California burglary is defined as entering a building or other enclosure with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside.41 California auto burglary is basically just a subset of this...except that it involves entering a car, instead of a building, intending to commit a felony or theft.42

So if you commit grand theft by larceny -- and you entered a house, building, or car to do so -- you may face charges for both Penal Code 459 PC burglary (or auto burglary) and grand theft.

Even if you don't succeed in carrying out the theft, you may still be charged with burglary (and attempted grand theft) just for the act of entering the structure with the intent to commit a theft inside of the structure.

Burglary is a felony, carrying a county jail sentence of up to (3) years. But the penalty can be up to six (6) years if it is committed in an inhabited house or trailer (that is, where someone is currently living).43

5.5. Penal Code 211 PC robbery

Penal Code 211 PC robbery occurs when someone takes personal property from someone else against his/her will, using force or fear.44

So it is very possible to face charges for both California robbery and Penal Code 487 PC grand theft if, for example, you use force or fear to take property worth more than $950 from someone. A mugging at which a laptop computer and a wallet full of cash were stolen could trigger both charges.

Robbery is always a felony. It carries a California state prison term of two (2) to six (6) years.45

Robbery is also a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Law.46 For this reason, if you are charged with robbery, it may make sense to try to argue to reduce your charges down to grand theft...which is not a strike offense in most cases.

5.6. Forgery

The California crime of forgery (Penal Code 470 PC) takes place when you knowingly do any of the following, intending to commit a fraud:

  • Sign someone else's name without their authorization,
  • Fake a seal or someone else's handwriting,
  • Change or falsify any legal document (like a will or a deed), or
  • Fake, alter, or present as genuine a false document pertaining to money, finances, or property (like a check or a promissory note).47

If you are accused of grand theft by false pretenses, trick, or embezzlement...there is a chance that the charges will also involve allegations that you committed forgery. For example, you may be accused of committing grand theft by embezzlement for forging your boss's signature on a $1,000 check.

Forgery is a wobbler. The maximum jail sentence for misdemeanor forgery is one (1) year...and for felony forgery, it's three (3) years.48

The exception is forgery of a check, money order, etc. totaling $950 or less. For defendants without certain sex crime or violent felony offenses on their record, this type of forgery is always a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one (1) year in county jail.49

Call Us for Help...

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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 487 PC grand theft and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

To learn about the crime of grand theft in Nevada, you may visit our page on the crime of grand theft (grand larceny) in Nevada.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on The California Crime of Embezzlement Penal Code 503 PC; The California Crime of Petty Theft under Penal Code 488 PC; California's Proposition 47; California's Sex Offender Registration Act; Legal Definition of a "Wobbler" in California Law; The Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; The Legal Definition of a Felony in California Law; California Penal Code 487(d)(2) PC - Grand Theft Firearm; "Serious" Felonies Under Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC; California Three Strikes Law and Proposition 36 Reforms; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; California's "Petty Theft with a Prior" Law Penal Code 666 PC; California Theft Crimes Lawyers; California's Elder Abuse Laws; California Grand Theft Automobile Law; Penal Code 459 PC California Burglary; California Auto Burglary; Penal Code 211 PC Robbery; and The California Crime of Forgery.

Legal References:

1 Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [including petty theft] defined. ("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.")

2 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft defined. ("Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: (a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), except as provided in subdivision (b). (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), grand theft is committed in any of the following cases: (1)(A) When domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250). (B) For the purposes of establishing that the value of domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops under this paragraph exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250), that value may be shown by the presentation of credible evidence which establishes that on the day of the theft domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops of the same variety and weight exceeded two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in wholesale value. (2) When fish, shellfish, mollusks, crustaceans, kelp, algae, or other aquacultural products are taken from a commercial or research operation which is producing that product, of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250). (3) Where the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more in any 12 consecutive month period. (c) When the property is taken from the person of another. (d) When the property taken is any of the following: (1) An automobile, horse, mare, gelding, any bovine animal, any caprine animal, mule, jack, jenny, sheep, lamb, hog, sow, boar, gilt, barrow, or pig. (2) A firearm.")

But see Penal Code 490.2 PC – Petty theft; punishment of certain repeat offenders. (“(a) Notwithstanding Section 487 or any other provision of law defining grand theft, obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) shall be considered petty theft and shall be punished as a misdemeanor, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290.”)

3 Penal Code 489 PC - Grand theft; punishment. ("Grand theft is punishable as follows: (a) When the grand theft involves the theft of a firearm, by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. (b) In all other cases, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.")

4 See same - Grand theft; punishment.

5 Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions ("CALCRIM") 1800 - Theft [including grand theft] by Larceny (Pen. Code, § 484). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant took possession of property owned by someone else; 2 The defendant took the property without the owner's [or owner's agent's] consent; 3 When the defendant took the property (he/she) intended (to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner's [or owner's agent's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property); AND 4 The defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.")

6 See Lindsay Lohan charged with stealing necklace from Venice jeweler, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 10, 2011; Prosecutor won't seek jail for Ryder, CNN, Nov. 6, 2002.

7 CALCRIM 1804 - Theft [including grand theft] by False Pretense (Pen. Code § 484). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner [or the owner's agent] by false or fraudulent representation or pretense; 2 The defendant did so intending to persuade the owner [or the owner's agent] to let the defendant [or another person] take possession and ownership of the property; AND 3 The owner [or the owner's agent] let the defendant [or another person] take possession and ownership of the property because the owner [or the owner's agent] relied on the representation or pretense.")

8 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by False Pretense (Pen. Code § 484). ("A false pretense is any act, word, symbol, or token the purpose of which is to deceive. [Someone makes a false pretense if, intending to deceive, he or she does [one or more of] the following: [1 Gives information he or she knows is false(./;)] [OR 2 Makes a misrepresentation recklessly without information that justifies a reasonable belief in its truth(./;)] [OR 3 Does not give information when he or she has an obligation to do so(./;)] [OR 4 Makes a promise not intending to do what he or she promises.]]")

9 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by False Pretense (Pen. Code § 484). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: . . . 3 The owner [or the owner's agent] let the defendant [or another person] take possession and ownership of the property because the owner [or the owner's agent] relied on the representation or pretense.")

10 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by False Pretense (Pen. Code § 484). ("[An owner [or an owner's agent] relies on false pretense, if the falsehood is an important part of the reason the owner [or agent] decides to give up the property. The false pretense must be an important factor, but it does not have to be the only factor the owner [or agent] considers in making the decision."]

11 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by False Pretense (Pen. Code § 484). ("You may not find the defendant guilty of this crime unless the People have proved that: [A The false pretense was accompanied by either a false writing or false token(;/.)] [OR] [(A/B) There was a note or memorandum of the pretense signed or handwritten by the defendant(;/.)] [OR] [(A/B/C) Testimony from two witnesses or testimony from a single witness along with other evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant made the pretense.]")

12 CALCRIM 1805 - Theft [including grand theft] by trick (Pen. Code, § 484). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant obtained property that (he/she) knew was owned by someone else; 2 The property owner [or the owner's agent] consented to the defendant's possession of the property because the defendant used fraud or deceit; 3 When the defendant obtained the property, (he/she) intended (to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner's [or owner's agent's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property); 4 The defendant kept the property for any length of time; AND 5 The owner [or the owner's agent] did not intend to transfer ownership of the property.")

13 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by trick (Pen. Code, § 484), Related Issues. ("Although fraud is used to obtain the property in both theft by trick and theft by false pretense, in theft by false pretense, the thief obtains both possession and title to the property. For theft by trick, the thief gains only possession of the property.")

14 See Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [including petty theft] defined, endnote 1, above.

15 CALCRIM 1806 - Theft [including grand theft] by Embezzlement (Pen. Code, §§ 484, 503). ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 An owner [or the owner's agent] entrusted (his/her) property to the defendant; 2 The owner [or owner's agent] did so because (he/she) trusted the defendant; 3 The defendant fraudulently (converted/used) that property for (his/her) own benefit; AND 4 When the defendant (converted/used) the property, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of (it/its use).")

16 See same, Theft [including grand theft] by Embezzlement (Pen. Code, §§ 484, 503). ("[An intent to deprive the owner of property, even temporarily, is enough.] [Intent to restore the property to its owner is not a defense.]")

17 People v. Counts, (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 785, 792-793  ("Juries need no longer be concerned with the technical differences between the several types of theft, and can return a general verdict of guilty if they find that an 'unlawful taking' has been proved.")

18 CALCRIM 1801 - Theft [grand theft and petty theft]: Degrees. ("The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the theft was grand theft rather than a lesser crime. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of grand theft.")

19 Penal Code 484 PC - Theft [includes both grand theft and petty theft] defined, endnote 1, above.

20 Penal Code 490.2 PC – Petty theft; punishment of certain repeat offenders, endnote 2, above [distinguishes petty theft from grand theft based on value of property stolen].

21 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft defined, endnote 2, above.

22 Penal Code 490.2 PC – Petty theft; punishment of certain repeat offenders, endnote 2, above [distinguishes petty theft from grand theft based on value of property stolen].

23 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft defined, endnote 2, above.

24 Penal Code 489 PC - Grand theft; punishment, endnote 3, above.

25 See same - Grand theft; punishment.

26 See same - Grand theft; punishment.  See also Penal Code 1170(h) PC. ("(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.")

27 See same - Grand theft; punishment.

28 See same - Grand theft; punishment.

29 Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC - Legislative intent regarding prosecution of violent sex crimes; plea bargaining; limitation; definitions; amendment of section. ("(c) As used in this section, "serious felony" means any of the following: . . . (26) grand theft involving a firearm; . . . .")

See also Penal Code 667(d) PC - Three strikes law. ("(d) Notwithstanding any other law and for the purposes of subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, a prior conviction of a serious and/or violent felony shall be defined as: (1) Any offense defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 as a violent felony or any offense defined in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 as a serious felony in this state [including grand theft firearm] . . . .")

30 Penal Code 12022.6 PC. ("(a) When any person takes, damages, or destroys any property in the commission or attempted commission of a felony [including felony grand theft], with the intent to cause that taking, damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an additional term as follows: (1) If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of one year. (2) If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of two years. (3) If the loss exceeds one million three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of three years. (4) If the loss exceeds three million two hundred thousand dollars ($3,200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of four years.")

31 See same. (" (b) In any accusatory pleading involving multiple charges of taking [such as through grand theft], damage, or destruction, the additional terms provided in this section may be imposed if the aggregate losses to the victims from all felonies exceed the amounts specified in this section and arise from a common scheme or plan.")

32 Long Beach criminal defense attorney John Murray represents clients in criminal proceedings in all locations of the courts of Los Angeles County courts and Orange County courts.

33 People v. Brooks, (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 24. ("'Whether a series of wrongful acts constitutes a single offense or multiple offenses depends upon the facts of each case and a defendant may be properly convicted upon separate counts charging grand theft from the same person if the evidence shows that the offenses are separate and distinct and were not committed pursuant to one intention, one general impulse, and one plan.' -- Quoting People v. Bailey (1961) 55 Cal.2d 514.  'If the defendant has no general overall plan or intent, each offense is regarded as distinct; if he has a general intent or overall plan, there is only one offense, and the values will be aggregated to make a single crime of grand theft.'  Witkin, Cal. Crimes, § 374, p. 348.")

34 See, e.g., CALCRIM 1800 - [Grand] Theft by Larceny, endnote 5, above.

35 People v. Tufunga, (1999) 21 Cal.4th 935. ("The claim-of-right defense [to grand theft charges] provides that a defendant's good faith belief, even if mistakenly held, that he has a right or claim to property he takes from another negates the felonious intent necessary for conviction of theft or robbery. At common law, a claim of right was recognized as a defense to larceny because it was deemed to negate the animus furandi, or intent to steal, of that offense.")

36 Penal Code 487 PC - Grand theft defined, endnote 2, above.

See also Penal Code 488 PC - Petty theft defined. ("Theft in other cases is petty theft.")

See also Penal Code 490.2 PC – Petty theft; punishment of certain repeat offenders, endnote 2, above [distinguishes petty theft from grand theft based on value of property stolen].

37 CALCRIM 1801 - Theft [grand theft and petty theft]: Degrees. ("The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the theft was grand theft rather than a lesser crime. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of grand theft.")

38 Penal Code 490 PC - Petty theft; punishment [contrast with grand theft penalties]. ("Petty theft is punishable by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.")

39 Penal Code 666 PC - Petty theft with a prior. (“(a) Notwithstanding Section 490, any person described in subdivision (b) who, having been convicted of petty theft, grand theft, a conviction pursuant to subdivision (d) or (e) of Section 368, auto theft under Section 10851 of the Vehicle Code, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or a felony violation of Section 496, and having served a term of imprisonment therefor in any penal institution or having been imprisoned therein as a condition of probation for that offense, and who is subsequently convicted of petty theft, is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison. (b) Subdivision (a) shall apply to any person who is required to register pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act, or who has a prior violent or serious felony conviction, as specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667, or has a conviction pursuant to subdivision (d) or (e) of Section 368.”)

40 See LAPD Crime Statistics Summaries Archive, 2011..

41 Penal Code 459 PC - Burglary and auto burglary [may be charged along with grand theft]. ("Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary. As used in this chapter, "inhabited" means currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not. A house, trailer, vessel designed for habitation, or portion of a building is currently being used for dwelling purposes if, at the time of the burglary, it was not occupied solely because a natural or other disaster caused the occupants to leave the premises.")

42 See same, Burglary and auto burglary [may be charged along with grand theft].

43 See Penal Code 460 PC; Penal Code 461 PC.

44 Penal Code 211 PC - Robbery [may be charged along with grand theft]. ("Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.")

45 See Penal Code 213 PC.

46 California Penal Code 1192.7(c) - Legislative intent regarding prosecution of violent sex crimes; plea bargaining; limitation; definitions; amendment of section. ("(c) As used in this section, "serious felony" means any of the following: . . . (19) robbery or bank robbery . . . .")

47 California Penal Code 470 PC - Forgery; Signatures or Seals; Corruption of Records [may be charged along with grand theft]. ("(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery. (b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery. (c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument, the record of which is by law evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court, is guilty of forgery. (d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery . . . .")

48 California Penal Code 473 PC - Forgery [may be charged along with grand theft]; punishment. (“(a) Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), any person who is guilty of forgery relating to a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier's check, traveler's check, or money order, where the value of the check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier's check, traveler's check, or money order does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290. This subdivision shall not be applicable to any person who is convicted both of forgery and of identity theft, as defined in Section 530.5.”)

49 Same.

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