Petty Theft California Penal Code, § 484

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with “Petty Theft” under California Penal Code § 484 do not wait! Call the Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian for representation by attorneys who know the law and will fight for your freedom.

Petty theft occurs when a person unlawfully takes another's property that is valued at $950 or less. Petty theft is a misdemeanor is California. Theft of property worth more than $950 can result in a charge of Grand Theft under California Penal Code 487. If convicted of petty theft, the defendant can face up to six months in jail, fines up to $1,000, and a maximum of 3 years’ probation.

According to U.S. Immigration Law, a theft crime is regarded as a crime of “moral turpitude” and could lead to deportation or denial of naturalization or citizenship.

California Penal Code § 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.” Penal Code, § 484.

There are many types of Petty theft which all depend on how one’s property was unlawfully taken.  Such as:

  • Theft by larceny

  • Theft by false pretenses

  • Theft by trick

  • Theft by embezzlement

What Does The Prosecution Need To Prove Beyond A Reasonable Doubt For Petty Theft?

To be found guilty of Petty Theft under 484 of the California Penal Code, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” is proof that leaves the jury or juror with an abiding conviction that the charge is true.

If you did take property intentionally without making payment, do not plead guilty to a petty theft charge without first calling The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian. Our experienced attorneys may be able to help you avoid a criminal conviction depending on the facts of your case.

The Elements The Prosecution Must Prove To Be Found Guilty Of Petty Theft By Larceny (California Penal Code, § 484)

To prove that the defendant is guilty of petty theft by larceny (Penal Code §484), the prosecution 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.

Petty theft by Larceny is quite common because it arises when one's physical property is taken away from its legal owner by another without consent, with the intent to permanently deprive them of its use. A common example of petty theft by larceny occurs where one shoplifts from a store, never intending to return the stolen property.

Defense To Petty Theft By Larceny

A common defense to petty theft by larceny is that the defendant never took possession of property owned. If you were forgetful or took the property by mistake, you are not guilty of petty theft.

Another common defense arises where the defendant took the property with consent of someone other than the owner (commonly referred to as an agent). In addition, if the defendant intended to return the property to the owner the defendant does not satisfy the third element. The defendant must intend to permanently deprive the property of another as to never give it back.

The Elements The Prosecution Must Prove To Be Found Guilty Of Petty Theft By False Pretenses (California Penal Code, § 484)

The defendant is charged with petty theft by false pretense 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 knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner or the owner’s agent by false or fraudulent representation or pretense;

  2. The defendant did so with the intent to persuade the owner or the owner’s agent to let the defendant or another person take possession and ownership of the property;

    AND

  3. The owner or the owner’s agent let the defendant, or another person take possession and ownership of the property because the owner or the owner’s agent relied on the representation or pretense.

A jury should not find the defendant guilty of this crime unless the prosecution has proved that:

The false pretense was accompanied by either a false writing or false token.

  • Example would be a fake check or counterfeit money.

OR

There was a note or memorandum of the pretense signed or handwritten by the defendant,

  • Example would be a forged check

OR

Testimony from two witnesses or testimony from a single witness along with other evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant made the pretense.

A false pretense is any act, word, symbol, or token the purpose of which is to deceive.

Someone makes a false pretense if, intending to deceive, he or she does one or more of the following:

  1. Gives information he or she knows is false.

    OR

  2. Makes a misrepresentation recklessly without information that justifies a reasonable belief in its truth.

    OR

  3. Does not give information when he or she has an obligation to do so.

    OR

  4. Makes a promise not intending to do what he or she promises.

Petty theft by false pretenses occurs where a defendant uses a false claim to obtain the property of another. An example of petty theft by false pretenses would be standing outside of a free charity event dressed as an attended of the event charging $20 a person who enters the free event. Despite the fact that the defendant was in no way connected to the charity and was charging individual's action of deceiving guests of the charity would constitute petty theft (so long as defendant did not take more than $950) by false pretenses. The false pretenses would be the uniform the defendant intentionally dressed into to achieve his desired purpose i.e., take $20 from each guest. This crime is different than petty theft by trick because petty theft by false pretenses gives the defendant title and possession.

Defense To Petty Theft By False Pretenses

A defense to petty theft by false pretenses occurs when a person gives away their property by choice and not in reliance to a false pretense. If the property was obtained by any other means other than by defendant’s false pretense, the defendant is not guilty of petty theft by false pretenses.

The Elements The Prosecution Must Prove To Be Found Guilty Of Petty Theft By Trick (California Penal Code, § 484)

  1. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the prosecution must prove that:

  2. The defendant obtained property that (he/she) knew was owned by someone else;

  3. The property owner or the owner’s agent consented to the defendant’s possession of the property because the defendant used fraud or deceit;

  4. When the defendant obtained 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);

  5. The defendant kept the property for any length of time;

    AND

  6. The owner or the owner’s agent did not intend to transfer ownership of the property.

Though petty theft by trick and petty theft by false pretense may seem similar, the major difference is that the defendant who is charged with petty theft by trick does not obtain title as a defendant would by false pretenses. A defendant charged with petty theft by trick only obtains possession.

An example of petty theft by trick arises where Party A tells Party B that he would fix his friends broken phone for free. Party B then gives Party A possession of the phone in reliance of Party A’s statement. Here, the victim did not intend to give up possession and ownership (or “title”) to his phone. Rather, the victim intended to give  Party A possession only for the sole purpose of fixing the phone.

Defenses

A defendant who did not intent to permanently deprive the property owner cannot be found guilty of this crime because the defendant did not possess the required state of mind.  In addition, if the defendant obtained the property of another with their consent and the consent was not in reliance of fraud or deceit, the defendant is not guilty of petty theft by trick.

The Elements The Prosecution Must Prove To Be Found Guilty Of Petty Theft By Embezzlement (California Penal Code, § 484)

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

  2. An owner or the owner’s agent entrusted (his/her) property to the defendant;

  3. The owner or owner’s agent did so because (he/she) trusted the defendant;

  4. The defendant fraudulently (converted/used) that property for (his/her) own benefit;

    AND

  5. When the defendant (converted/used) the property, (he/she) intended to deprive the owner of (it/its use).

A person acts fraudulently when he or she takes undue advantage of another person or causes a loss to that person by breaching a duty, trust or confidence.

Petty theft by embezzlement arises where the defendant unlawfully takes ownership of entrusted property. Petty theft by embezzlement occurs where a person in a position of trust unlawfully takes property, he or she has access to. A common example of petty theft by embezzlement is a bank teller who has been entrusted to handle large amount of money, using his or her job title the defendant unlawfully steals money from the bank.

Defenses

A few defenses to petty theft by embezzlement is that the defendant did not possess the specific intent to deprive the owner. This is the assertion that the defendant did not fraudulently convert the property for their own benefit. In addition, a good faith belief in acting with authorization to use the property is a valid defense.

Don’t Wait Call Now

If you or a loved one has been charged with Petty theft, please call the Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian. An experienced criminal defense attorney who knows Petty theft law and its defenses will fight for your freedom. The attorney’s Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian have helped many people fight their Petty theft charges and have been successful in dismissing all charges.