WHAT IS GRAND THEFT?
California Penal Code §487 establishes the crime of grand theft. To be convicted of grand theft in California, you must have stolen someone else’s property, and the value of the property must exceed $950. In essence, grand theft and petty theft are two sides to the same coin; they involve the same conduct, the only difference is the value of the items stolen. The magic number is $950.
There are many actions that can result in a conviction for violation of the statute governing grant theft, but there are some actions which are a little more common place than others, common examples include:
- Committing a snatch and grab on the street of a woman’s very expensive purse, which is worth $5,000
- Going into a nice jewelry store and pocketing a $4,000 watch
- Prior to finishing your shift at work, opening the register and walking out of the door with $1,000
There are a number of variations of grand theft, and each variation has their own unique elements that must be proven in order to obtain a conviction.
Since the Prosecution will have to prove every element of whichever variation of grand theft they are seeking to obtain a conviction on, it is important to understand the elements of each crime. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have extensive experience representing clients in a number of criminal charges including grand theft. As a result of their years of practice, training, and court appearances, our OCCA attorneys have an intimate understanding of the Law and the elements necessary to prove the case sufficiently. A detailed analysis of each form of grand theft is set forth below.
WHAT IS GRAND THEFT BY LARCENY?
Under California law, theft by larceny occurs when you physically grab the property of another, and carry it away. In order to be convicted of grand theft by larceny the Prosecution must prove 4 elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You gained possession of somebody else’s property
- You took the property without having obtained consent from the owner
- When you took the property from the victim, you intended to deprive them of that property permanently; and
- You moved the property, even a small distance, or kept the property for a period of time, no matter how brief.
Clark sneaks into the Civic Theater to catch a peak at the latest plays being performed there because he didn’t want to spend the money to gain admission. Clark has not committed larceny because he did not take something and carry it away.
Clark has two fancy vehicles that he owns, deciding he’d rather make money off of his car, rather than let spiders build their homes on it in his driveway; Clark leases one of the cars to Joey. After 6 months, Clark decides he wants his car back, and asks joey to return it to him Joey has grown fond of the car, and was supposed to have the car for another 6 months, so he says no. Late at night, Clark snuck into the driveway and took the car back. Clark can be found guilty of grand theft by larceny because he did not have a right to possess the vehicle while he was leasing it to Joey, and he caused the car to move away. Further, the car is certainly worth more than $950, so that satisfies the value requirement to maintain a charge of grand theft by larceny.
WHAT IS GRAND THEFT BY FALSE PRETENSES?
The crime of false pretenses is established in California Penal Code §532. In order to obtain a conviction for grand theft by false pretenses the Prosecutor must prove five elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You intentionally tricked the rightful owner of property with a misleading representation;
- You committed that act with the intent of gaining possession and ownership of the property;
- The victim allowed you to take possession and ownership of the property because they relied on your false representation.
- You committed the act with the goal of convincing the true owner of the property to give you possession and ownership of the property.
- The reason the owner let you have ownership and possession of the item is because they relied of your misrepresentations.
A key fact to be proven by the Prosecutor in a false pretense case is that the victim actually was deceived based on his reliance on the Defendant’s false representations; this must be a major factor in the victim’s decision to transfer his ownership right to the Defendant.
In California, the Prosecution faces a difficult time proving theft by false pretenses. The Prosecution must show that the false representation was accompanied by a writing or a token.
Clark needed to borrow money from Dave, and came up with clever ruse to obtain that loan. He approached Dave with a “contract” purporting to secure the loan from Dave by putting Clark’s car up as collateral. Unbeknownst to Dave,
Clark did not have a car. Clark can be found guilty of theft by false pretenses, provided the Prosecutor also submits the writing Clark provided to Dave.
WHAT IS GRAND THEFT BY TRICK?
- In order to obtain a conviction for theft by trick, the Prosecution must prove three elements:
- You obtained property which you knew was owned by someone else;
- The owner of the property consented to your possession of that property as a result of your use of fraudulent or deceitful actions;
- When you obtained the property from the victim, you intended to permanently keep that property, or keep it from the true owner for an extended period of time.
Additionally it is necessary to distinguish false pretense and larceny by trick. Larceny by trick occurs when the victim did not allow the Defendant to gain possession of the property, but the victim was fooled by the defendant who stole the property. In contrast, false pretense occurs when the defendant has gained full possession and ownership of the property by tricking the victim into consenting to the transfer.
WHAT IS THEFT BY EMBEZZLEMENT?
To be convicted of grand theft by embezzlement the Prosecutor must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt
- The owner of property willingly gave that property to the defendant based on trusting relationship
- The Defendant took the property for his own gain;
- When the defendant took the property, it was with the end goal of causing the true owner to lose the benefit of its use
Clark works at a local bank. One of the customers comes in and asks him if he could give a $10,000 watch to the manager as a gift for services he had performed earlier that month. Clark wanted a new watch, and thought this watch looked better on his wrist anyways, so he took it. Clark is guilty of grand theft by embezzlement.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES I MIGHT FACE IF I AM CONVICTED OF GRAND THEFT?
In California, if someone is accused of grand theft, the Prosecutor gets to make the final call as to whether it will be brought as a misdemeanor, or if the Prosecutor wants to bring the charge as a felony.
If the Defendant is charged with misdemeanor grand theft, they may be penalized with up to a year of imprisonment, and a fine of up to $1,000, or a combination of both jail time and a fine. If the grand theft is charged as a felony, the Defendant could face incarceration ranging from months to years; specifically, the Defendant could be facing sixteen months, two years, or three years of incarnation.
If the crime was committed through the use of a firearm, the punishment increases significantly in that you will receive a “strike” under California’s three strikes law.
If the value of the property stolen was exceptionally valuable, the Defendant may face even stiffer penalties. The Defendant will receive an additional year of incarceration if the value of the items stolen exceed $65,000, an additional two years if the property was valued over $200,000, three extra years if the property is worth $1,300,000, or 4 more years if the value of the property that was stolen exceeds $3,200,000. It should be noted that the value of stolen property is a highly contested fact in criminal proceedings, having competent counsel to advocate for your rights, especially in the theft context, could be the difference between years of your life.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL DEFENSES MY OCCA ATTORNEY CAN RAISE IF I AM CHARGED WITH GRAND THEFT?
- As mentioned above, if you are charged with grand theft in California, the Prosecutor will make the decision to bring the charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This decision will be based on the facts surrounding your case. Regardless of what form the charge takes, I you are convicted, the conviction will appear on your criminal record. Your criminal record is able to be viewed by anybody who is conducting a background check on you. Usually, a potential employer will conduct a cursory background check on potential new hires for positions with their company. Employers are generally hesitant to hire people with a criminal background; this is truer when the conviction is for a felony. Additionally, since this crime involves theft, and dishonesty, and employer may automatically rule you out for a position with their company. If you have been charged with grand theft in California, contact an attorney at Orange County Criminal Attorney immediately. Our attorneys understand the law, understand how to beat a case, and understand how to see reduced penalties if you are convicted. Your OCCA attorney can raise a number of defenses to the charge against you including:
- You did not have the required intent to be found guilty of the crime
- You were wrongly accused
- Mistake of fact.