Theft Attorneys in San Rafael, California

Theft is a common crime in California. However, just because it’s commonplace doesn’t make it any less serious. A theft conviction on your record can prevent you from obtaining gainful employment in numerous fields such as childcare, education, government, law enforcement, and healthcare; a theft conviction on your record can alter your entire future altogether.

Even if you believe you were guilty of taking something that wasn’t yours, you deserve a solid defense. The circumstances that lead to theft charges are all unique and require personalized counsel. If you are charged with a theft crime in California, including San Rafael, Novato, San Francisco, Petaluma, or San Marin County, reach out to Attorney Josh S. Brownstein as soon as possible.

Faced with Theft Charges?

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What Are Theft Charges in California?

“Theft” is a broad term defined as stealing to permanently deprive someone of their property, which can occur in a variety of ways:

  • Larceny is the intentional taking of someone’s property, such as by shoplifting or burglary. Receiving stolen property is also larceny, whether you know the property is stolen or not.

  • You commit embezzlement if you have legal possession of someone’s property, then unlawfully use it for your own benefit.

  • Theft by false pretenses occurs if you take someone else’s property by misrepresentation.

  • You might also be charged with theft if you use someone else’s credit card without permission, fail to return something you borrowed or leased, lie on an application to garner benefits, sell stolen property, or keep property you found without attempting to locate and return it to its rightful owner.

Is Theft a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Whether a specific theft is charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the particular circumstances, beginning with the value of the stolen property. In California, if the value of the stolen property is $950 or less, the accompanying charge is usually misdemeanor petty theft, although it might be elevated to a felony if you have prior convictions for theft or violent crime. Theft of property valued at more than $950 is grand theft, which may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The type of property stolen is another factor in the severity of the charge. Grand theft of a vehicle or firearm is typically a felony offense.

How the property was stolen also determines whether a felony or misdemeanor charge applies. Petty theft of $950 or less is charged as a felony if the act is part of a theft ring intending to sell stolen property. You face a felony grand theft charge if you steal more than $950 over a 12-month period from your employer.

Where the property was stolen also affects the charges. You face a felony charge if you steal the property off of the body of a person. If you steal property from a residence while the inhabitants are there, you may face a felony first-degree burglary charge.

How Is Shoplifting Charged?

Shoplifting is the intent to steal property from a business during regular business hours. Intent to steal property valued at $950 or less constitutes petty theft which is generally charged as a misdemeanor unless there is a history of prior convictions. Shoplifting property valued in excess of $950 is grand theft which, again, may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Note that shoplifting charges are based on intent, so you do not need to leave a business with the property to be charged. Moreover, shoplifting occurs during regular business hours. Theft when the business is closed, even if you don’t have to break in, is burglary.

In addition to the criminal charges you face for shoplifting, you may face civil penalties as well. The business may pursue a judgment against you for the value of merchandise not returned or damaged, for damage to the business’s property during the commission of the crime up to $500, and reimbursement of the court fees and attorney’s fees incurred by the business in bringing the civil suit against you.

What Possible Penalties Might
I Face for a Theft Conviction?

The possible penalties for theft are based on a range of circumstances that dictate how theft crimes are charged. In general, penalties for misdemeanor theft charges begin with a jail sentence of up to six months and fines of up to $1,000. A conviction for felony grand theft can result in a prison sentence of 16 months to three years.

What Are Some Common Defenses
Against Theft Charges?

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows what defenses may be raised to fight charges of theft. Those defenses are based on specific circumstances, but there are some that are commonly used.

Shoplifting convictions typically require that the prosecution prove intent to steal. Proving that someone entered a business intending to take something (as opposed to sticking something in their pocket on a whim) is often difficult to do.

If there are witnesses to thefts, your attorney can call into question their account of what happened and the possibility that the witness has identified the wrong person.

Your attorney may also raise the question of ownership and permission. If you own the property, you cannot be charged with a theft crime. Similarly, if you believed you had permission to remove the property, this might be an effective defense against theft charges.

Theft Attorneys
Serving San Rafael, California

There are always many moving parts to theft allegations and charges. Someone with the knowledge and experience of Attorney Josh S. Brownstein will use those parts to the advantage of your defense. If you have been charged with a theft crime in or around San Rafael or anywhere else in California, reach out to Brownstein Law Group, P.C. to set up a one-on-one consultation.