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Van Nuys Criminal Attorney

Criminal defense is about defending rights. And everyone has rights. Yet when you have been charged with a crime and are swept up in the criminal justice system, you quickly learn that nobody is as interested in defending your rights as you are, and you cannot do it alone. For fierce, uncompromising criminal defense call Leah Legal now!

When you or someone you know and love are suddenly arrested on criminal charges in Los Angeles or throughout Southern California, you have an immediate "emergency" on your hands. You are likely in a situation you have never been in before, such that confusion and uncertainty can run rife.

And if you are more familiar with the legal process because you are facing a repeat charge, that only means that the stakes will be that much higher as to potential sentencing, and there will still be legal surprises that can "ambush" you absent an experienced criminal defense attorney who has seen it all before.

Leah Legal Criminal Defense Law Office has been serving the L.A. and Southern California Area for years with top-tier legal advice and representation across a wide range of practice areas. Attorney Leah Naparstek, who graduated law school with high honors, has accumulated deep hands-on experience in criminal, DUI, and immigration law over the last decade. She has earned admission to numerous bars and law associations and has earned the respect of colleagues and clients alike.

But in the end, what matters most about Leah Legal is that we are passionate about helping people in need, and we are a law firm that is dedicated unreservedly to fighting for you and your best interests. From day one, we work tirelessly and creatively in forming the best possible defense strategy for your case and in undermining the arguments and evidences of the prosecution. We always insist on obtaining the best possible outcome for our client in every case we take on.

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Qualities That Set Leah Legal Apart from the Crowd

When you become our client at Leah Legal, we bring you more than just legal knowledge and experience, we also bring you a dedication to serving your best interests in every possible way. We pride ourselves on a number of specific qualities that set our law firm apart in a crowded industry. These include:

  • Our experience is both deep and wide as to practice areas and is focused exclusively on criminal defense. We are fully familiarized with the specifics of local court processes and even have detailed knowledge of the tendencies of specific judges, prosecuting attorneys, and "expert witnesses" frequently called in by DAs.

  • We do not hesitate to take on your case based on what kind of charge you face. We handle both felonies and misdemeanors, DUI, drug crime, theft, assault & battery, sex crime, and other charges. No case is too big, too small, too easy, or too hard for us to invest our time in it.

  • We take the time to thoroughly investigate the details of every case. This means doing our own "homework" and not just relying on the police report or the prosecution's version of events. We probe for any weaknesses in the evidence to be brought against you and identify any mitigating factors in your favor.

  • We adhere to a high "work ethic." Criminal defense is not a 9-to-5 endeavor. It often takes long, unpredictable hours to best serve our clients, and we take that duty too seriously to stop short of whatever it takes, and however long it takes, to get the job done.

  • Leah or another experienced associate will always handle your case. We do not play the law mill game. A "law mill" in legal talk is a law firm that takes on excessively high numbers of clients all at once and then assigns most of them to inexperienced lawyers. This gains them extra work but is bad for the clients. We always handle your case personally and give you the representation you deserve.

  • Leah Legal brings you the skills of a trial lawyer and negotiator together. This means your chances of a pre-trial dismissal, a plea deal that reduces your charge and/or sentence, or an acquittal are all increased. These two skills complement each other, for only when the prosecution fears going to trial against you do they become more willing to negotiate.

  • We keep ourselves constantly accessible to our clients at all times. We share our cell phone numbers with you and we let you know how to contact us for a fast response and keep you informed of new developments as soon as they occur. Communication is key in winning legal battles, and we always keep multiple lines of communication open.

  • Leah Legal brings you the highest caliber of legal representation but does not charge you exorbitant rates. We keep ourselves affordable and always let our fees be known upfront from the beginning.

We Fight for You Through Every Stage of the Legal Process

All of the advantages mentioned above are brought to bear on behalf of our clients throughout the entirety of the legal process, and we can take over a case no matter what stage it is currently at.

The Arrest

We can assist you from the moment of the arrest, or if you fear you may soon be arrested and/or charged, even before this occurs. Leah Legal can provide you with critical and timely advice on each next step at this critical juncture and help you begin preparing your defense as early as possible. Under certain circumstances we are able to speak with the investigating detective and or the prosecutor and prevent a filing altogether.  When this is not possible, we are often able to prevent an embarrassing arrest by arranging for you to go to the police station to be booked at a certain designated time.

After the arrest, the police report and other information will be handed over to the prosecutor, often a DA. The case will be reviewed to decide if there is enough evidence that the alleged crime even took place and if the defendant is likely the perpetrator.

The Complaint

Normally, the DA will trust the police report and file the charges it supports. At this point he or she will make a formal "complaint" detailing the charge against you.

In some cases, the DA may decide to drop the charges if the evidence seems too weak, or will even agree to a plea bargain to reduce the charges. Thus, already, the legal wheels are beginning to turn, and it pays to have a skilled California defense attorney on scene to press for dismissal or reduction of charges.

The Criminal Arraignment

We can begin building you a solid case long before your arraignment (initial court date), but the arraignment is clearly a critical moment in the overall legal process.

Here, you will be formally read the charge against you by the presiding judge. At this point, you will have to enter a plea of "guilty," "no contest," or "not guilty." It is also at this point that bail will be set if you were not already bailed out earlier.

Understand that your arraignment is not an actual trial as such. But having your lawyer present at the arraignment can greatly affect how your case proceeds. It is possible that violations of your rights will be cited by your defense attorney, which will then lead to evidence against you being thrown out of court and your case being dismissed. It is also possible a favorable plea agreement can be worked out and agreed to at this point, avoiding the need to actually go to trial.

At Leah Legal, we know how to use the time between your arrest and arraignment wisely to maximize your chances of a win without ever going to trial.

The Criminal Preliminary Hearing

If no plea deal takes place at the arraignment, and you plead "not guilty," then your case moves toward trial. But first, your defense attorney will have another chance to fight for you at your preliminary hearing.

Here, the defense finally gets access to the police report and all other evidence given already to the prosecution. This is the "discovery" process, and it better equips us to fight and win your case.

The prosecutor will unveil his or her evidence at the preliminary hearing and seek to persuade the judge that not only was the alleged crime actually committed but that you are very likely the one who committed it. The judge must then decide if this evidence is weighty enough for you to be "held to answer" in a jury trial. If not, the case will be dismissed. This may happen if the witnesses against you are not deemed "credible" or if existing evidence is too heavily "conflicting."

The defense will be given not only the evidence being used against you but also any evidence deemed "exculpatory," meaning seemingly in your favor. It is your right to have such evidence, if it exists, revealed to your defense attorney at the preliminary hearing, and a failure to do so can get your case dismissed.

Note that we at Leah Legal will take this opportunity to seek to have evidence declared inadmissible in court if it was obtained unlawfully. And we will cross-examine witnesses of the prosecution, pinning them down to a single, unchangeable "story." The preliminary hearing is like a miniature trial to determine if there will be an actual trial. The burden of proof is lower, but what happens here can determine what evidence the jury will see and strongly influence how your case is ultimately resolved.

The preliminary hearing can end in a dismissal, a plea deal, or a trial date. But you only have a right to a preliminary hearing if it is a felony charge. With misdemeanors, you would go straight from the arraignment to pre-trial, after which a trial will take place if the case cannot be resolved without one.

The Criminal Trial

At Leah Legal, we have extensive experience in presenting convincing arguments in court, in finding evidence and witnesses in your favor, in calling our own "expert" witnesses to counter those brought in by the prosecution, and in exposing the weaknesses in the case brought against you.

Most cases don't even go to trial, but because of Leah Legal’s strong reputation at this phase, you are more likely to get a dismissal or favorable plea at the arraignment or preliminary hearing.

If a jury trial commences, we will always fight for an acquittal as the first option. We never give up before the battle has even begun, like some so-called defense attorneys. However, we also understand the realities you are facing and know when and how to negotiate for a reduced charge/sentence instead of risking a conviction with a sentence at or close to the maximums.

Thus, it is possible to "win" a case even when a conviction cannot realistically be avoided. This might mean getting a DUI charge reduced to wet reckless, getting jail time exchanged for community service and probation, or receiving a lighter fine. 

By excluding or undermining the reliability of the prosecution's evidence and witnesses from early in the process, we build a foundation for winning the best possible outcome to every case. It can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal or between a harsh sentence and a much lighter one.

We Are Always Here to Help

We at Leah Legal are here first and foremost to be a "lifeline" to those facing daunting criminal allegations that they don't know how to combat on their own. We turn the tables and put the prosecution at the disadvantage instead of you.

From the moment we answer the phone when you call for a free consultation to moment your case is concluded, we apply both our legal expertise and our most strenuous efforts to winning your case. At every stage of the legal process, every step of the way, we put ourselves in your shoes and fight for you like we would want to be fought for, were our roles reversed.

To learn more about our criminal defense services in your practice area of concern, feel free to call us anytime 24/7/365 at 818-484-1100 for a free, no-obligation legal consultation and immediate assistance when you need it most.


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Petty theft involving offenses like shoplifting is most people's first criminal charge. Thus, making this experience and uncertainty of the charge's possible consequences more terrifying because you don't know what to expect. A petty theft charge may sound like a less serious offense, but it carries serious consequences that can affect an offender's professional life, reputation, and immigration status for non-citizens.

Our criminal defense attorneys at Long Beach Criminal Attorney have significant experience and skills to help you or your loved ones fight for the best possible outcome from a petty theft charge. We know how different courts around the state treat petty theft charges and what defense strategies are likely to work to resolve your unique case.

Understanding Petty Theft Offense Under Penal Code 484 PC

Penal Code 484 PC is the general theft law that makes it unlawful for you to take another person's property, asset, or money to possess it as your own. Two main types of theft are punishable under this law, including:

  • Grand theft (PC 487)
  • Petty theft (PC 488)

This article will particularly focus on petty theft to give you insight into helpful steps you can take to protect your interest and legal rights when you face this type of theft crime charge. While grand theft involves the unlawful taking of another person's property worth more than $950, petty theft under Penal Code 488 PC involves the unlawful taking of property, assets, or money worth $950 or less.

Note that your case will be a grand theft regardless of the property value when you steal weapons like firearms or grenades. To obtain a conviction for a petty theft offense like shoplifting which is very common among youths, the prosecutor with the jurisdiction over your case must prove the following elements of the crime:

  • You took property belonging to another person
  • You took the property without the owner's permission or consent
  • When you took the property, you had the intentions to deprive the owner of his/her rights to possess it
  • There was moving of the property, even a short distance, and you took possession of it for some time, however brief
  • The properties' value is worth $950 or less

Common Forms of Theft Offenses That Are Chargeable Under Petty Theft Law

A petty theft charge can arise from several forms of theft as long the property in question does not exceed $950. Below are everyday forms of theft offenses that are chargeable and punishable under petty theft law:

Theft by Larceny

Most cases that lead to petty theft charges involve a particular form of theft known as larceny. You commit theft by larceny when you take personal property of another person or business, including:

  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Electronic equipment
  • Clothing
  • Sporting gear or equipment
  • Bicycle

For a conviction of this offense during the trial, the prosecutor will establish the same elements of the crime as mentioned above for petty theft.

Theft by Trick

Like it sounds, this offense involves tricking another person into willingly giving or handing over his/her property or money with the idea that it is only for a temporary duration, but it turns out permanent. For example, this kind of theft can happen when a man convinces you that he can repair and clean your jewelry, and you hand them over to him willingly for those services. Then, he decides never to return your jewelry, and he keeps them for himself.

In that kind of situation, you did not intend to transfer the jewelry ownership to the defendant, and he/she could be subject to petty theft charges if the jewelry value were less than $950.

Theft by Embezzlement

Violating embezzlement laws under Penal Code 503 PC is another form of theft that can make you subject to petty theft charges. Theft by embezzlement involves the unlawful taking of another person's property because you are in a position of entrustment.

For instance, you could be guilty of petty theft by embezzlement when you are an employee in a bank or a financial institution. Then, you decide to steal money from a client's account because you have the authority and ability to access it.

Even if you had intentions of returning the money, it could not work as a legal defense strategy during the trial. The prosecutor will seek to secure a conviction against you for the crime of petty theft by embezzlement if the money in question is below $950.

Theft by False Pretense or Fraud

According to Penal Code 532 PC, you commit theft by false claim or pretense or fraud when:

  • You knowingly and intentionally deceive a property owner through false pretenses or claims
  • Persuade him/her to let you take possession of the property
  • The property owner let you take possession of his/her property because he/she was relying on the false claims or pretenses

You will be guilty of this offense if the prosecutor can prove to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the property owner was relying on your false claims or pretenses. That means if the property owner didn't rely on your false claims or pretenses, he/she wouldn't let you take possession of his/her property.

Potential Consequences of a Petty Theft Conviction

Typically a prosecutor will file a petty theft charge as a misdemeanor if you don't have a prior conviction history of the same offense or other crimes of moral turpitude. A first-time misdemeanor petty theft offense can make you subject to the following consequences:

  • Six months incarceration in the county jail
  • A fine amounting up to $1, 000

Instead of a jail sentence, sometimes a judge may award you misdemeanor probation. With the services of an experienced attorney, you might be able to reduce a misdemeanor petty theft charge to an infraction offense under Penal Code 490 PC, which carries less severe consequences.

Your attorney might also be able to convince the prosecutor and the judge to allow you to participate in a pretrial diversion program to avoid a criminal conviction. A pretrial diversion program will enable you to participate in courses that can help you reform and become a law-abiding citizen.

The consequences of a petty theft conviction are even more severe if you have a prior petty theft conviction history. According to Penal Code 666 PC, petty theft with a prior is chargeable as a wobbler, which means the prosecutor can file your case as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Petty theft with a prior can make you subject to up to eighteen months in the county jail or two to three years in the state prison, depending on the severity of your alleged charge. Since the court describes petty theft as an offense of moral turpitude, this charge's conviction can also result in other consequences apart from a jail term and hefty fines.

For instance, if you are a non-citizen, you could be subject to deportation and inadmissibility consequences. You will need a strong legal defense throughout the case, whether you are a citizen or non-citizen because a conviction of a "moral turpitude" crime like petty theft can affect your ability to secure employment and your general reputation.

Petty Theft Legal Defense Tips

Your criminal defense attorney can be able to challenge the petty theft allegations or accusations against you by raising the following legal defense arguments:

Owner's Consent

As mentioned above, you are only guilty of violating petty theft laws under Penal Code 488 PC if the property owner didn't have consent that you are taking possession of his/her property. Therefore, it would be a reasonable and solid legal defense for an attorney to argue that the property owner had a consent that you are taking possession of his/her property.

Lack of Intent

If you never had the intent to steal the property in question, your attorney can raise this argument in court to bargain for a less severe charge or dismissal of the charges. For instance, if you were delivering some items in a truck, and mistakenly or absent-mindedly, you drive away with goods or items worth $950 or less.

In that kind of situation, you should not be guilty of petty theft because you didn't have the intent to take or keep the goods or items in question.

False Accusations

A wrongful arrest resulting from false accusations can make you subject to petty theft charges even if you did not commit the crime. Petty theft charges arising from a false allegation or accusation mostly happen in business dealings. For instance, when employees reach a point of accusing each other of stealing items in case the deals don't work.

This legal defense argument could work out in your favor for exoneration of the charge or for an alternative charge with a less severe charge in that kind of situation.

Ownership Belief

Ownership belief would be another viable and dependable defense argument for a petty theft charge if you had a reasonable belief that the property in question was yours before taking possession of it. The judge could find a claim of right argument reasonable if the belief that the property was yours was in good faith.

However, if your reason to take the property in question was to settle a debt or a dispute, this legal defense argument will not be applicable. Do not let a petty theft charge under Penal Code 484 and 488 PC limit your future. It is imperative to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can when the police arrest you for any petty theft charge.

A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can give you some legal assistance to negotiate the best possible outcome to avoid a petty theft criminal conviction on your record.

Frequently Asked Questions on Petty Theft

Most people who run afoul with the law will ask several questions to make right informed and knowledgeable decisions afterward, which is a wise idea. Below are a few common frequently asked questions on petty theft:

Can I Expunge a Conviction for Petty Theft on My Criminal Record?

If you have a conviction for a petty theft offense on your criminal record, your attorney can help you seek an expungement under Penal Code 1203.4. An expungement releases you from consequences and disabilities resulting from a petty theft conviction.

After expungement of a petty theft conviction on your criminal record, you don't have to disclose this information to a prospective employer inquiring about your criminal history for employment. However, for you to qualify for an expungement, you must meet the following legal requirements:

  • Complete your probation successfully
  • You should not have a current criminal charge
  • You must complete your petty theft conviction sentence

Can a Petty Theft Conviction Affect My Gun Rights?

A conviction for a petty theft charge under Penal Code 484 and 488 PC will not impact your gun rights. While some felony and misdemeanor convictions can lead to loss of your rights to own and possess a gun, a conviction resulting from a petty theft charge will not affect your gun rights.

Why Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney for My Case?

Apart from increasing your chances of avoiding unbearable consequences resulting from a petty theft conviction, hiring a criminal defense attorney can help you in many other ways. For example, your attorney can appear in most court appearances on your behalf to fight for your best interests.

It gives you peace of mind knowing someone will appear in your court appearances following a petty theft charge, especially if you are a busy person with a tight schedule.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

There are several legal defense strategies a reliable and experienced criminal defense attorney can apply to fight for your best interests following a petty theft charge. If you want the services of an attorney who will fight for your best interests aggressively and selflessly, Long Beach Criminal Attorney is here for you. Call us today at 562-308-7807 and let our attorneys access your case for an outstanding legal representation.

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LeahLegal is result-oriented. We seek to help our clients achieve their objectives in the timeliest, most economically feasible and successful manner possible. Our philosophy emphasizes a fierce and uncompromising defense; we believe in meticulous preparation and we're not afraid of hard work and long hours. Above all else, we make sure to find a defensible truth in every case. Our clients never lose sight of the fact that we care about them and their loved ones, as we remain compassionate and sensitive to each of their individual needs.

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LeahLegal is committed to each and every client. Cases do not simply stop at the initial meeting, this is a long road and LeahLegal will be by your side every step of the way. When you sign up with our firm you can rest assured you will be treated with kindness, respect, and honesty while obtaining vigorous criminal representation. Some of our past clients have been wonderful enough to leave testimonials on their experiences dealing with our firm. These are real people who faced some of the same things you are facing at the moment and they decided to lean on LeahLegal to represent them in obtaining the best result imaginable. Read a few client reviews here.

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