As a child growing up, most of us were taught that we should not take what does not belong to us. The consequences of not listening to our parents and teachers and taking another child’s toys or other belongings may have resulted in certain consequences and punishments, such as getting grounded or having a toy or something of such value taken away.
As adults we are given the same set of rules – only now these rules are set by the government under what is known as petty theft laws and the consequences and punishments are more severe. This article discusses the consequences of a petty theft conviction.
What Is Petty Theft?
California defines the crime of theft as the unlawful taking of someone else’sproperty. When the property that is taken away is valued at less than $950, the theftis considered “petty theft” under California Penal Code Sections 484 and 488. Mostpetty theft crimes arise when an individual physically takes someone else’s property. This is known as “theft by larceny.”
Some examples of the crime of petty theft under California criminal law include:
- Putting a merchandise from a store in your purse or pocket without paying for it
- Switching price tags on merchandise in order to pay less for the item you want
- Placing a more expensive item or product into a box of a lower priced item
- Wearing new clothes or shoes in a dressing room and leaving the stor without paying for it
- Eating at a restaurant and leaving without paying the bill
- Eating food inside a store and not paying for it during check out
The Consequences of California’s “Petty Theft” (Penal Code 484)
Petty theft is considered a misdemeanor under California law. The maximum penalties for most first‐time petty theft convictions include:
- A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000)
- Up to six (6) months in county jail
- Both a fine and jail time
In addition to the consequences above, defendants are typically ordered to return the item they took or its value, if the item is no longer available to return. This is called restitution.
The punishment for petty theft is generally up to the judge. The judge will consider certain factors such as the value of the property stolen and whether it is your first offense. For example, if it is your first offense and the item you stole from a store was worth $100, you may likely get a lighter sentence than another person who steals the same merchandise but has had a prior conviction.
Call an Experienced Stockton Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one was have been arrested for allegedly taking an item that belongs to someone else, it is important to seek immediate legal assistance. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with criminal defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call us at (209) 323‐5558 or (559) 449‐1447.