California Penal Code § 490.2 PC defines petty theft as stealing up to $950 worth of money, property, or labor. As a misdemeanor, petty theft is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
490.2. (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.
(b) This section shall not be applicable to any theft that may be charged as an infraction pursuant to any other provision of law.
(c) This section shall not apply to theft of a firearm.
California Penal Code 490.2 PC defines petty theft (also referred to as petty larceny) as stealing up to $950 worth of:
- real property, or
- personal property
Petty theft is usually a misdemeanor in California, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.1 However, stealing $50 or less can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or an infraction (at the prosecutor’s discretion). Infractions carry up to $250 in fines.2
Note that petty theft can be punished as a felony carrying 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail if the defendant has a prior conviction of either:
- a “sexually violent offense” as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code 6600(b);
- oral copulation with a child who is under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than the defendant;
- sodomy with another person who is under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than the defendant;
- sexual penetration with another person who is under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than the defendant;
- a lewd or lascivious act involving a child under 14 years of age;
- any homicide offense, including any attempted homicide;
- solicitation to commit murder;
- assault with a machine gun on a peace officer or firefighter;
- possession of a weapon of mass destruction;
- any serious or violent felony offense punishable in California by life imprisonment or death; or
- an offense requiring registration pursuant to 290(c) PC.
Also, note that 490.2 PC does not comprise stealing firearms – even if they are worth $950 or less. Learn more about grand theft firearm in California (PC 487(d)(2). Also see our article about grand theft (PC 487).
- California Penal Code 490.2 PC – Petty theft; Value of stolen property; Inapplicability to firearms. See also People v. Bullard (Cal. Mar. 23, 2020), 260 Cal. Rptr. 3d 153, 460 P.3d 262, 9 Cal. 5th 94. See also People v. Liu (Cal. Nov. 21, 2019), 254 Cal. Rptr. 3d 809, 451 P.3d 1165, 8 Cal. 5th 253.
- 490.1 PC.
- 490.2 PC.