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While petty theft is generally not considered to be a serious crime in Los Angeles, California law includes more severe charges leading to potentially stiff penalties under its petty theft with a prior law. In order for this charge to apply, the defendant must have specific types of prior convictions on their record, and they must have either served time in jail or prison for those convictions. Prior charges that didn’t lead to convictions are not enough for the petty theft with a prior law to apply. If you have been charged, getting the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer may help you to reduce your charges by asserting defenses that you might have available to you.
California Penal Code 666
Under California Penal Code 666, petty theft with a prior is defined as a person who has specific qualifying convictions on their criminal records for which they must have served time. The offense may be charged as a felony offense in the state. Petty theft is defined in California Penal Codes 484 and 488 It is a theft that involves the taking of certain types of property holding a value of $950 or less, not including cars, horses, firearms, fruit and nuts with a value exceeding $250 or fish and shellfish exceeding a value of $250 if it is taken from a commercial fishing operation. Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense carrying the potential for up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
While regular petty theft is not treated very harshly, petty theft with a prior in California is a wobbler offense. Wobbler offenses in Los Angeles may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor with the charging decision being solely within the prosecutor’s discretion. If a person is convicted of a felony petty theft with a prior offense, they may be sentenced to serve up to three years in state prison.
In order to be convicted of petty theft with a prior, you must have qualifying convictions on your criminal record and you must have served time for them. You can have three or more of the following convictions and be charged with the enhanced offense:
● Petty theft
● Auto theft
● Grand theft
● Receiving stolen property
You may also be charged with petty offense with a prior if you have one of the convictions listed above, and you also have a prior conviction for a sex crime that requires you to register as a sex offender. Other convictions that can lead to a charge of petty offense with a prior include prior convictions for any of the following along with a single conviction from the prior list:
● Any serious felony, such as murder, rape, mayhem, or voluntary manslaughter
● Forced oral copulation or sodomy under the threat of serious bodily injury, duress or coercion
● Lewd or lascivious acts involving a child under the age of 14
● Attempted murder
● Felonies in which you inflicted great bodily harm on the victim
● Any felony punishable by up to life imprisonment
● Burglaries of the first degree, kidnapping, arson or certain felony assaults.
Your criminal defense attorney will determine what defenses are available to you, depending on his or her analysis of the facts of your case. Some of the more common defense include:
1. You didn’t have the required intent to steal whatever it was you are accused of taking.
2. You truly believed that the item was yours.
3. You don’t have the qualifying prior convictions on your record.
4. You are being falsely accused.
When you schedule your consultation, our attorneys will review the facts of what happened in your case. After determining the appropriate defenses that may be raised, your lawyer will then negotiate with the assigned prosecutor in order to try to secure a favorable plea. In some cases, it is possible for an experienced criminal defense attorney to win the dismissal of charges, depending on the relevant facts. To learn more about your rights and how we might be able to help you, call us today to schedule your appointment.