Grand Theft Lawyer in Orange County

Under California’s criminal laws, not all theft is equal.

The principal distinction in our California theft laws is between grand theft and petty theft. What makes a crime one or the other depends on the alleged value of property stolen. Despite the name, the bar may be set lower than you would think for a crime to be classified as “grand theft”.

While any theft crime must be taken very seriously, the punishments associated with a conviction for grand theft are more serious. A small mistake or error of judgment can affect your entire life.

Apart from the potential jail time, a lifelong criminal record will likely affect many aspects of your life, from employment to your travel freedoms.

For the best possible chance of avoiding the most serious consequences of a conviction, contact our team of experienced grand theft lawyers at The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian in Orange County for a diagnosis of your case.

California Penal Code 487 PC

Grand theft laws are outlined in California Penal Code Section 487. The principal section of interest reads as follows:

“Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: (a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) …”

What is California Grand Theft?

As you can see, you don’t need to be accused of stealing anything very valuable in order to have been accused of grand theft. 

The unlawful taking of another person’s property over the value of $950 without their consent, with the intent to steal it, can lead to a grand theft charge against you.

The bar for “grand theft” is set even lower for stealing certain types of property. For instance, for farm products (including domestic fowl and crops) the value is over $250 – and the same applies to ocean or agricultural products that are taken from a research facility.

Grand Theft Lawyer in Orange County


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During the consultation, we will help you understand your rights and the charges against you.

How are theft offenses classified in California?

Grand theft can occur using any of the following means:

  • Larceny: physically taking away or carrying another person’s property with the intent to steal it (e.g., shoplifting).
  • Embezzlement: unlawfully taking property that has been entrusted to you, such as using company funds for paying private bills.

False pretenses: tricking another individual into giving you possession and ownership of property, e.g., telling an elderly person that an item is worthless when it is actually very valuable.

Grand theft vs. petty theft

Since the introduction of Proposition 47 into Californian law in 2014, there has been a clear distinction between grand theft and petty theft based on the value of the property taken (whether it is valued above or below $950).

Previous to that, you could be charged with grand theft if you stole a firearm, an automobile, or certain animals of any value or if the property was taken directly off the person of the owner, such as clothing.

Now, such crimes under the value of $950 will only be charged as grand theft if you have a prior conviction for either of the following on your record:

  • A sex offense requiring registration under California’s sex offender registration act, or
  • Certain serious “strike” felony convictions such as murder, rape or child molestation

You could also face a grand theft charge in California if you take money, labor or personal property from your employer amounting to $950 or more during any 12-month period.

Penalties for grand theft in California

In the majority of cases, grand theft is treated as a wobbler offense, i.e., it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony – generally based upon the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

Grand theft misdemeanor penalties
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • Fines
  • Possible enhancements (additional jail time) if the value of the stolen property exceeded $65,000
Grand theft felony penalties
  • Probation with up to one year in county jail, or
  • 16 months, two years or three years in California state prison to be served in the county jail (more if a firearm was used)
  • Fines
  • Possible enhancements (additional time) if the value of the stolen property exceeded $65,000
Grand theft firearm penalties

Grand theft with a firearm is an automatic felony and will count as a “strike” on your criminal record.

Multiple acts of grand theft

If multiple acts of grand theft occur, you can be charged with multiple counts of grand theft. The penalties you face will reflect the charges filed against you.

However, if multiple acts of grand theft occur in the same case i.e., part of the same continuous act, you can only be charged with one count of grand theft.

What are the best defenses for grand theft?

Several viable defense strategies are available in grand theft cases in California. Depending on the circumstances of your case and the evidence against you, your grand theft lawyer may use one of the following arguments:

Lack of intent

You can only be convicted of grand theft if the prosecution proves that you intended to steal the property.

Mistakes can be made due to absent-mindedness, taking medication, or simple lack of concentration. None of these acts constitutes an intent to steal. The more sophisticated the scheme, the more challenging it may become to show that there was no intent (the possibility still exists though).

Claim of right

If you had a “good faith” and reasonable belief that the property you took belonged to you (even if that belief was mistaken), you may have a defense for grand theft charges.

This defense only becomes viable if the property is not derived from illegal activity and/or you did not attempt to conceal the fact that you took the property either at the time or afterward.

False accusation

It is surprisingly common for false accusations of theft to be made against individuals. This is often due to someone having a vendetta or grievance against the accused party.

Consent was given

If the owner of the property granted you permission to take it, and your use of the property was within the scope of the consent, you may not be guilty of grand theft.

Charged with grand theft in Orange County?

If you or a loved one have been charged with grand theft, your best defense is to retain a lawyer from The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian to fight for your rights and your freedom.

Contact us at 855-918-4253 for a case evaluation.

We have offices in Santa Ana, Westminster, Newport Beach and Fullerton to serve clients with matters heard at the Central, West, Harbor, and North Justice Centers, respectively, for all of Orange County.  The lawyers at The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian are here to help!  Book an online consultation to get started today.
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