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What are the different degrees of theft in California?

Crimes involving theft are a big concern in California. Those accused of this type of crime may face some serious penalties if a conviction is secured. The type of theft alleged and/or severity of the crime are determining factors as to what level of charges are filed and, in turn, the type of punishment that can be handed down.

Theft is defined as a crime which involves taking another individual's property without their consent. While that definition is just a basic overview, there are several factors that would change the type and degree of theft and how it is punishable. These factors include the type of property stolen, the value of the property and the intent of the person accused of taking that property. The answers to each of these factors would help determine if charges filed would be for petty theft or grand theft.

Petty theft charges are often considered misdemeanor crimes, while grand theft charges are felonies. Grand theft charges are generally imposed if the value of the property stolen is worth more than $950, and petty theft charges would be for amounts less than that. Some exceptions are made to this number, based on the type of property stolen -- stealing over $250 in livestock or farm goods would qualify under grand theft instead of petty theft.

Penalties for each degree of theft varies. Petty theft is often punishable by a fine and jail time lasting up to six months. Grand theft, on the other hand, could warrant a jail sentence of up to three years. If the accused has any prior criminal convictions, this history could play a key role in determining the severity of the sentence should a conviction actually be secured. Whatever degree of theft a person faces, there are different defense strategies that can be utilized in a California criminal court to fight the charge at hand and seek the best possible outcome.

Source: FindLaw, "California Theft / Larceny Law", , Sept. 4, 2014

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