A conviction for petty theft can result in six months in jail, fines up to $1,000, and up to three years’ probation.
However, these are not mandatory punishments. They represent the maximum sentencing exposure you could face. By working with an experienced petty theft attorney, you can minimize this exposure.
Bear in mind that a misdemeanor on your criminal record can have major consequences for employment, housing, and other important matters.
For instance, if you are hoping to apply for citizenship, a petty theft conviction may be regarded as a crime of “moral turpitude”, which could lead to deportation or denial of naturalization or citizenship.
Moreover, a petty theft conviction may lead to the denial of a government application for licensing. For example, if you are seeking a nursing, real estate, or attorney license, a conviction may be a component the licensing authorities will consider when determining whether to grant or deny your application for licensing with that agency.
This is why speaking with an experienced theft attorney should be a priority as soon as you are arrested and charged with a petty theft offense.
Not surprisingly perhaps, the penalties for petty theft become more severe if you have prior convictions on your record.
Under Penal Code § 666, prosecutors can charge petty theft with a prior as a misdemeanor or a felony if:
- You have a prior conviction for a theft crime, a violent offense, or certain sex crimes, and
- You have served time in a penal institution for that conviction
The associated sentencing enhancements for petty theft with a prior can mean a penalty of up to three years in state prison as well as fines and probation.
Shoplifting occurs when someone enters an open business with the intent to steal merchandise worth $950 or less (if the value of property stolen is over $950, you could be charged with grand theft).
A conviction for shoplifting in Orange County carries the same potential penalties as any other petty theft charge.
Remember, shoplifting falls under the category of petty theft by larceny.
As such, a first conviction could result in six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000 plus penalty assessments. However, with the assistance of a petty theft lawyer, jail time is less likely.
Typically, first-time offenders may incur a summary probation sentence and fines including penalty assessments, community service, or community labor.
With a prior criminal history or if you are serving probation for another offense, keeping you out of jail is more challenging. However, it is still possible with an experienced attorney like Bryan R. Kazarian.
The best defenses to petty theft charges always depend on the specific circumstances of your case and the type of petty theft you have been charged with.
That said, some defenses have consistently proven to be effective in the right circumstances, especially if you have no prior convictions.
The skills of your defense lawyer are key here and the more time available to work on your defense, the better the chance of a positive outcome.