Actual Case #1

In People v. Leigh F. - Case No. BA419198, my client was working at Tiffany & Co. in the Beverly Center when she decided to misappropriate some jewelry and cash. When store security found out about the crime my client was detained and she confessed to everything and even wrote a statement admitting her guilt. Any other attorney would consider this a closed case and would have happily plead Leigh to a felony with probation to avoid jail. Not me! That type of case disposition could be worked out by any first year law student. What I did was appeal to the Deputy D.A.'s emotions and I reminded the D.A. that my client was (1) remorseful, (2) an unsophisticated criminal, (3) and that she had the property belonging to Tiffany and was willing to return the merchandise. So I was able to arrange a sit down with the very masculine L.A.P.D. female Detective assigned to this case, Tiffany security, the Deputy D.A. and my client at L.A.P.D. Wilshire Division. I worked out a deal that if my client returned the money and property to Tiffany and if she attended and completed a "anti-theft" class, then she would have the entire case dismissed after one year. Outcome: Case dismissed. 

THE LAW

What Is Grand Theft?

Section 487 of the California Penal Code defines "grand theft" as the intention taking of the property of another that has a value of $950 or more. If a lesser value is stolen, the charge is generally reduced to "petty theft" as outlined in penal code sections 484 & 488.

However, if property is taken directly from the owner's person, it is grand theft regardless of the amount involved. Anything taken from the victim's body, from his/her clothing, or from a container being carried or held by the victim is said to be taken "from his person." This rule typically has to do with cases wherein a person was "mugged."

There are also certain classes of property that always automatically rank as grand theft instead of petty theft. These include the following:

  • Automobiles
  • Firearms
  • Horses and certain other animals
  • Fish, shellfish, aqua-culture, nuts, or fruit if taken directly from a fishery or research facility

As the charge of grand theft is a very serious allegation, it is imperative that those accused of it waste no time in obtaining a top-tier legal defense team working in their behalf.

What Must the Prosecution Prove?

The points to be proven by the prosecutor depend upon the specific type of grand theft being alleged. In general, he/she must show beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant took the property, intended to permanently deprive its owner of its use, and did so without the owner's consent.
It should be noted, however, that intent to deprive the owner of his/her property for an extended period of time, such that a great deal of the enjoyment of and value of that property would be affected, is sufficient to convict. For example, "borrowing" a car without permission for three months is grand theft, even if you intended to return it before the owner came home from an extended vacation and discovered it to be missing.

Defenses Against the Charge of Grand Theft

Four of the most prevalent defense strategies used to counter charges of grand theft are the following:

  1. The defendant had no intention of stealing the property. Without the element of intent, the act cannot be construed as theft, much less as grand theft.
  2. The defendant had, or had good reason to believe he had, the permission of the owner to take the property in question.
  3. The defendant genuinely, though wrongly, believed the property was rightfully his. Thus, his intent was to claim or reclaim his own property rather than to steal the property of another.
  4. The allegations are simply false. The property in question was never even taken by the defendant. It may be that the defendant is actually the victim, being the target of a frame job or of a malicious accusation.

Possible Penalties for Grand Theft

Grand theft is sometimes charged as a misdemeanor and other times charged as a felony. The value and type of the property stolen, along with the defendant's past criminal record, will be the factors that determine whether a felony or a misdemeanor is filed.

A misdemeanor grand theft conviction carries a penalty of a one-year term in the county jail. A felony grand theft conviction can result in felony-level probation with a year in the county jail or in a state prison sentence of between 16 months and 3 years. It is important to note that grand theft auto almost always is filed as a felony and that grand theft firearm is a mandatory felony.

Related Offenses

Certain related charges will become relevant in many grand theft cases. Among them are these: grand theft auto, grand theft firearm, robbery, burglary, trespassing, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Some of these charges concern the object stolen, others the means used to carry out the theft, and still others the place at which the theft took place. Extra heavy punishments can accrue when a car or gun is stolen, a weapon and/or threat is used to commit a theft, or a crime was committed on the victim's private property.

Expert Grand Theft Defense Attorneys

We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll have a skilled team of experts who know how to handle your grand theft case. We have acquired a large reservoir of experience that enables us to know how to approach each specific type of grand theft case and secure the best result possible for our clients. If you have any further questions about grand theft law or would like a free legal consultation, do not hesitate to call us today at 323-467-6400.