Penal Code 484 is a California statute that is used to charge individuals with the crime of petty theft. If you have been charged with this crime, you should be aware of what the law says as well as your rights as the accused.
What Does Penal Code 484 Illegalize as Petty Theft?
According to 484 (1) of California’s penal code, a petty theft is any theft of property that is less than $950 in value that has denied the owner of the ability to enjoy or benefit from that specific property. There are certain exceptions to this general rule. Certain kinds of property that could be less than $950 in value and would be classified as a more serious kind of theft if stolen include guns, vehicles and livestock. The theft of this property constitutes separate crimes under the California penal code.
A specific element of petty theft in California is that the owner of the property is derived of the ability to enjoy it or benefit from it while it is stolen. In this case, even if the property is returned, a petty theft still occurred. An example of this, for example, could be a person taking a bicycle from a store and then returning it later. While the store owner may have the bike back, he or she was derived of the ability to sell that bike and profit from it during that period.
What Are the Penalties of Petty Theft Under Penal Code 484?
This kind of theft is classified as a misdemeanor under California law. If convicted, a person could face up to half a year in a county jail, a $1,000 fine and probation.
In this case, it would be informal probation. Informal probation is a form of probation that does not require direct supervision. A person is simply expected to complete the terms of the probation and report having done so at a hearing set at a certain date. Probation also usually comes with the maximum jail sentence being suspended as long as the terms of the probation are adhered to.
Despite the fact that a person could spend six months in jail, this usually does not occur. Petty theft is not considered a very serious crime in California. Multiple convictions, however, will insure harsher punishments from judges. In that case, the theft may even be classified as a felony.
How Can Our Law Firm Help?
Despite the fact that petty theft under Penal Code 484 is not treated the same as other crimes that are considered more serious in California, it does pose the possibility of serious penalties including jail time. This is why having proper legal representation from attorneys experienced in this part of the criminal code is extremely important.
There are a number of good strategies that can be used to defend the accused in court. If it can, for example, be proven that the defendant did not intend to steal the property in question, he or she could be acquitted of all charges.
Los Angeles Petty Theft Lawyers
Petty theft in Los Angeles occurs when someone steals something with a value of under $950 from another party. This could mean stealing from a retail store, stealing something you were supposed to watch over or taking items from an employer. Petty theft is a misdemeanor charge that can result in jail time and large fines. It is important to understand why you need an attorney when facing petty theft charges in Los Angeles.
Question the Basis for the Charges
A lawyer is critical in petty theft cases because the professional can question the very basis of the charges. An attorney can work hard to show that you were never going to steal an item. A law firm might be able to prove that you actually owned the item or the charges are completely fraudulent. These types of defenses require detailed knowledge of the law in Los Angeles and California. An attorney will know how to legally prove these situations if true.
Look For Problems with Police Procedures
Being arrested for petty theft in Los Angeles means the police must follow specific procedures during the entire process. A Los Angeles attorney will look for any problems with police procedures during and after your arrest. Police might have done things improperly causing your rights to be violated. This could mean any evidence collected is not admissible in court. Your lawyer will know exactly what to look for when reviewing the details of police reports.
Protect Your personal Rights
It is possible that an overly aggressive prosecutor will attempt to violate your personal rights. You might be subject to a series of motions meant to harass you. A prosecutor might use underhanded tactics to scare you into accepting a bad plea deal. You want to have a lawyer in Los Angeles by your side to ensure your rights are protected. Your attorney will do everything possible to defend your rights until the petty theft case is resolved in a fair way.
Keep You Out Of Jail
Although petty theft is considered a misdemeanor, you could still spend up to six months in jail for the crime if convicted. You want to hire an attorney to help keep you out of jail. Your lawyer will immediately attempt to negotiate with the prosecution. Those negotiations could result in greatly reduced charges that allow you to steer clear of jail time. An experienced law firm might even be able to negotiate something like community service or probation in lieu of jail time so that you can continue living your normal life.
Lower Your Fines
Anyone who is convicted of petty theft in Los Angeles could face up to a thousand dollar fine. That could become even larger if there are aggravating circumstances or punitive fees. You should have a lawyer defending you to help lower your fines. Your attorney could show that you cannot pay the full amount of the fines. A lawyer can sometimes convince a judge or prosecutor to dismiss the fines if you do not commit any crimes for a certain period of time. Attorneys are key for lowering any potential fines from petty theft cases.
Prevent Charges from Appearing On Your Permanent Record
Misdemeanor petty theft in Los Angeles will appear on your permanent record when applying for jobs or trying to get an apartment. The charges can make it much more difficult to live normally and advance in life. A knowledgeable attorney can attempt to prevent petty theft charges from appearing on your permanent record. This is done through a deferred entry of judgment. That means the charges will be dismissed if you finish a specific diversion program. You need the help of an attorney to have any hope of winning a deferred entry of judgment.
When someone hears the term “petty theft”, they may imagine that this criminal offense is minor or non-serious. While it is true that a charge of petty theft in Los Angeles is less serious than a grand theft charge, being convicted of petty theft can have far-reaching consequences.
Knowing more about this criminal charge is the best way to protect yourself from getting charged in the first place. If you find yourself facing a petty theft conviction, having knowledge of the consequences that you may be facing can be a very powerful asset.
Defining the Crime
Under Section 484 of the California Penal Code, a person may be guilty of petty theft if they:
- Take property from another person or establishment
- Take said property with the intention to deprive the owner of the property
- Take an item that is valued at $950 or less
To properly understand this criminal charge, it is essential to understand the legal definition of theft. Under California law, theft is the intentional act of permanently depriving a person of their property or services or temporarily depriving that person so that they cannot get the full use of the item. This can refer to taking merchandise from a store, using a service and failing to pay for it or knowingly receiving property that has been stolen.
Examples of Petty Theft
Suppose that Jack goes to a supermarket to do his weekly grocery shopping. Jack picks up his groceries and goes to the checkout line to pay. While in line, Jack picks up a candy bar from the rack near the checkout register and places it into his pocket while taking out his wallet to pay for the groceries. He pays for his groceries but neglects to take the candy bar out and have it rung up so that he can pay for it.
Jack exits the store and is stopped by store personnel and detained until the police can arrive.
Now, Jack may not have willingly deprived the store owner of his or her property but it may certainly look that way to the store staff and the police. Jack may be arrested and charged with petty theft.
Under the law in Los Angeles, a person who is convicted of petty theft may face the following legal consequences:
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Up to six months in county jail
In some cases, a person who is convicted of petty theft may be ordered to serve a term of supervised probation, in addition to or in place of the punishments listed above.
In most cases, stealing a very inexpensive item from a store or another person may not lead to jail time. However, the fines associated with this offense can be very expensive. Even worse, a petty theft charge can show up on a background check, potentially leading to lost job opportunities or even job termination.
If you are facing a petty theft charge in Los Angeles, our law firm can assist you with strong legal defense strategies. For example, our defense attorneys may argue that:
- You did not intend to deprive the property’s owner of their property
- You received stolen property without knowing it was stolen
- You intended to return the item or pay for it
If these strategies are successful, you may avoid a conviction, jail time and fines and maintain your clear criminal record.