Theft Crimes

Theft Crimes & what you need to know

Many people charged with theft crimes are good, productive citizens who made an unfortunate mistake and deserve a second chance rather than a permanent criminal record and jail time. Moreover, many innocent people are wrongly accused of theft crimes based on false allegations or misleading evidence.

A California theft related conviction can be particularly harmful in terms of gaining future employment, state licensing and other benefits. Although most theft convictions can eventually be expunged, they will still surface on background checks. Employers tend to shy away from applicants with theft records, fearing them to be dishonest and having the potential to steal from their companies. Furthermore, most California theft offenses are considered "crimes of moral turpitude." This means that state license boards will often cite theft convictions as a reason to deny licenses and certifications. In addition, these convictions may also have immigration consequences for immigrants seeking a visa, green card or naturalization to the United States.

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Theft is the taking of another person’s property without his or her consent. The crime of theft is a rather broad one; there are various ways in which a person can commit theft, and each one is its own specific crime.

Petty Theft

This is the stealing of property valued up to $950. Although the offense is generally classified as a misdemeanor, a second offense can be charged as a felony.

Grand Theft

Grand theft is the stealing of property valued at more than $950. While it is a “wobbler” and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, the majority of grand theft charges are considered felonies.

Grand Theft of a Firearm

Any theft of a firearm counts as grand theft, regardless of the value of the gun. This offense is a felony if the firearm is more than $950 in value.

Grand Theft Auto

California law treats theft of an automobile as grand theft if the value is more than $950.


Entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft inside constitutes a burglary. If the structure is a home or "inhabited dwelling," residential burglary may be charged. This would count as a "strike" pursuant to California Three Strikes Laws.

Auto Burglary

Breaking into a locked vehicle for the purpose of stealing it constitutes auto burglary under California law.


Robbery is the use of violence, force or threats to take property from someone's immediate possession. This too counts as a strike under California Three Strikes Laws.


This is basically robbery of a vehicle. If one uses force or fear to take a vehicle from someone's immediate possession, a California carjacking may be charged.


An individual who wrongfully steals or misappropriates property entrusted to him by the rightful owner may be charged with embezzlement.

Receiving Stolen Property

This occurs when someone purchases or receives property that he/she knows or reasonably should know is stolen.


Passed by California voters in November 2014, Proposition 47 turned a number of felony crimes into misdemeanors. If you have been convicted of felony burglary, receiving stolen property, check fraud, forgery, grand theft firearm or grand theft auto, you may be eligible to have your felony sentence reduced per Proposition 47.


While the penalties for theft crimes vary greatly, the penalties for embezzlement, forgery, and writing bad checks, as well as the majority of theft-related offenses, may include state or federal prison, community service, formal probation, informal probation, and/or parole. Theft crimes also tend to have financial ramifications in the event of a conviction. Court fines and restitution are often mandatory, and an experienced attorney can guide and advise you from a financial perspective how to lessen the impact of these collateral consequences.


It is important that an attorney helps you to strategize about possible defenses to theft accusations, including mistake of fact, business relationships gone awry, and simple human error.

Sometimes the prosecution's evidence may be overwhelming. Even then, an aggressive criminal defense lawyer can often negotiate an arrangement with the judge or prosecutor to get the theft charges reduced or dismissed. This is especially true in first offense theft cases, where the client has no record and just made a bad mistake. If a defendant agrees to repay the victim and to do a course of community service or theft counseling, it is oftentimes possible to convince the D.A. or the court to drop the charges and spare the client the stigma of a permanent criminal record.

If you are under investigation, or are facing theft charges, call LeahLegal at (818) 484-1100 today for a free, confidential initial consultation.

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