Penal Code Section 484 States:

 

“(a) Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft."

 

The crime of theft is a very broad criminal offense. There are various ways in which a person can commit theft, and each may be a separate and specific offense. Also, you should be aware that the terms ‘larceny’ and ‘theft,’ for purposes of the California Penal Code, are exactly the same thing. The term ‘theft’ is simply the more modern and commonly used version.

 

THEFT BY LARCENY. What the DA MUST Prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

 

Jury Instruction 1800. Theft by Larceny

 

The defendant is charged [in Count ] with [grand/petty] theft [by larceny] [in violation of Penal Code section 484].

 

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

 

1. The defendant took possession of property owned by someone else;

2. The defendant took the property without the owner’s [or owner’s agent’s] consent;

3. When the defendant took the property (he/she) intended (to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner’s [or owner’s agent’s] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property); AND

4. The defendant moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.

 

[An agent is someone to whom the owner has given complete or partial authority and control over the owner’s property.]

 

[For petty theft, the property taken can be of any value, no matter how slight.]

Theft crimes may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

 

 

The criminal charges will usually depend upon the dollar value of the stolen property, the location of the crime, and the means by which the theft was carried out. For example, if a person is convicted of using a weapon while committing a theft crime, he/she may be subject to enhanced theft related charges and penalties.

 

Theft is broken down into two categories: grand theft and petty theft.

 

Penal Code Section 487 States:

 

“Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases:

(a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding four hundred dollars ($400), except as provided in subdivision (b).

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), grand theft is committed in any of the following cases:

 

(1)    (A) When domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).

 

(B) For the purposes of establishing that the value of domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops under this paragraph exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250), that value may be shown by the presentation of credible evidence which establishes that on the day of the theft domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops of the same variety and weight exceeded two hundred fifty dollars ($250) in wholesale value.

 

(2) When fish, shellfish, mollusks, crustaceans, kelp, algae, or other aquacultural products are taken from a commercial or research operation which is producing that product, of a value exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).

 

(3) Where the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more in any 12 consecutive month period.

 

(c) When the property is taken from the person of another.

 

(d) When the property taken is any of the following:

 

(1) An automobile, horse, mare, gelding, any bovine animal, any caprine animal, mule, jack, jenny, sheep, lamb, hog, sow, boar, gilt, barrow, or pig.

 

(2) A firearm.”

 

Consequently, Theft is generally considered grand theft if the value of the property or services wrongfully taken is more than $400.

 

 

Penal Code Section 490.5 States:

“(a) Upon a first conviction for petty theft involving merchandise taken from a merchant's premises or a book or other library materials taken from a library facility, a person shall be punished by a mandatory fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each such violation; and may also be punished by imprisonment in the county jail, not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.”

 

Any theft for property or services valued under $400 is ordinarily considered petty theft. Be advised, however, often times a charge of petty theft with a prior theft on one’s record is filed as a Felony and carries elevated punishments..

 

Significantly, theft related offenses are considered “moral turpitude” offenses which usually carry negative immigration consequences and create significant issues if the defendant is a licensed, credentialed, or government employee. Particularly, if the defendant is not a United States citizen, his or her immigration status or application for citizenship could be placed in jeopardy.

 

GRAND OR PETTY THEFT. What the DA MUST Prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

 

Jury Instruction 1801. Theft Degrees

 

If you conclude that the defendant committed a theft, you must decide whether the crime was grand theft or petty theft.

 

[The defendant committed grand theft if (he/she) stole property [or services] worth more than $400.]

 

[Theft of property from the person is grand theft, no matter how much the property is worth. Theft is from the person if the property taken was in the clothing of, on the body of, or in a container held or carried by, that person.]

 

[Theft of (an automobile/a firearm/a horse/<insert other item listed in statute>) is grand theft.]

 

[Theft of (fruit/nuts/<insert other item listed in statute>) worth more than $100 is grand theft.]

 

[Theft of (fish/shellfish/aquacultural products/ <insert other item listed in statute>) worth more than $100 is grand theft if (it/they) (is/are) taken from a (commercial fishery/research operation).]

 

[The value of avocados or citrus fruits may be established by evidence proving that on the day of the theft, avocados or citrus fruits of the same variety and weight as those stolen had a wholesale value of more than $100.]

 

[The value of (property/services) is the fair (market value of the property/market wage for the services performed).]

 

[Theft of (fish/shellfish/aquacultural products/ <insert other item listed in statute>) worth more than $100 is grand theft if (it/they) (is/are) taken from a (commercial fishery/research operation).]

 

[The value of avocados or citrus fruits may be established by evidence proving that on the day of the theft, avocados or citrus fruits of the same variety and weight as those stolen had a wholesale value of more than $100.]

 

[The value of (property/services) is the fair (market value of the property/market wage for the services performed).]

 

<Fair Market Value—Generally>

 

[Fair market value is the highest price the property would reasonably have been sold for in the open market at the time of, and in the general location of, the theft.]

 

<Fair Market Value—Urgent Sale>

 

[Fair market value is the price a reasonable buyer and seller would agree on if the buyer wanted to buy the property and the seller wanted to sell it, but neither was under an urgent need to buy or sell.]

 

All other theft is petty theft.

 

The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the theft was grand theft rather than a lesser crime. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of grand theft.

 

 

 

 

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