California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand Theft
The crime of “grand theft” is defined in California Penal Code Section 487. In basic terms, theft is described as taking another person’s property. If the total value of the property taken exceeds $950, then under California law, it’s commonly known as PC 487 grand theft. Any theft of property when the total value is under $950 is known as “petty theft,” under California Penal Code 484. Both PC 487 grand theft and PC 484 petty theft are among the most common crimes committed in Los Angeles County. Grand theft is a “wobbler” crime, meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. A conviction for misdemeanor grand theft carries up to one year in the county jail, but a felony conviction carries a sentence of up to three years. Clearly, any type of a theft conviction on your record could have long-term consequences on your life. A common example of grand theft in Los Angeles County includes a situation where a person walks into a department store and steals many items of expensive clothes. As they are leaving the store, they are detained by loss prevention officers who determine the total value of the clothing is greater than $950. In this example, a PC 487 grand theft charge would be appropriate due to the value of the stolen clothes.
Types of Grand Theft
It should be noted there are many different types of grand theft charges. This includes grand theft by larceny, embezzlement, false pretense, and by trick. Each type of grand theft has their own “elements of the crime” that must be proven by the Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction.
If you have been accused of grand theft, it would be a wise decision to not any answer questions from law enforcement as you might incriminate yourself. Rather, you should consult with the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group. We have a track record of success and know how the prosecutor will attempt to build a case against you. Now that we have discussed a general overview of grand theft above, let’s now take a closer examination of the legal definitions, penalties, and potential legal defenses below.
Legal Definition of PC 487 Grand Theft
As stated above, California Penal Code Section 487 covers a grand theft offense and provides a straightforward legal definition as follows:
Grand theft is a theft committed by any of the following ways; (a) When the money, labor, or property taken exceeds $950.
As mentioned above, there are different ways to commit a grand theft crime that are based on the elements of the crime. In other words, it will depend on the way the property was acquired. There are 4 types of criminal offenses and the prosecutor only has to prove you committed one of these unlawful acts to convict you. As you can see from the legal definition above, the property in PC 487 includes real and personal property, money and services. Consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm if you need additional information or to review the details of your case. Let’s take a closer look at each type below.
Grand Theft by Larceny
Theft by larceny occurs when you steal another person’s property and moved it to another location. In order for the prosecutor to convict you, they have to be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the following elements of the crime:
- You took possession of property owned by another person without their consent
- When you took possession of the property, your intent was to keep it permanently or long enough to deprive the owner a portion of the value or enjoyment
- You moved the property and kept it for some period of time
- The value of the property exceeds $950; or the property was a firearm or automobile
It should be noted that a seemingly routine shoplifting case can often turn into a grand theft by larceny case as it doesn’t take a lot for the total value of stolen items to exceed $950.
Grand Theft by False Pretense
Theft by false presences is defined under California Penal Code Section 532 and described as anyone who knowingly, by fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds someone else to obtain money, labor, or real personal property. The elements of the crime of theft by false pretense are as follows:
- You intentionally deceived another person by false representation
- Your false pretense was with intent to persuade the owner to give you possession of their property
- The owner only gave you possession of their property because they relied on your false pretense
- The value of the property taken exceeded $950
It’s important to note that a “false pretense” occurs when you, with intent to deceive, tell the victim something you know is not true; make a promise you never intend to keep; make reckless claims; or don’t give information you are obligated to provide.
Grand Theft by Trick
Grand theft by trick occurs when someone uses fraud or deceit to obtain possession to money, labor, or real personal property. In order to convict you, the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to prove the following elements of the crime under CALCRIM 1805:
- You obtained property you knew someone else owned
- The property owner only gave you possession due to your fraud or deceit
- When you took property, you intended to keep it permanently or some amount of time
- The owner had no intent to transfer ownership to you
- The value of the property taken exceeded $950
As you can see above, grand theft by trick has similar elements of the crime as grand theft by false pretense. What’s the difference? In a grand theft by trick case, the property owner gives you possession of the property without any intent to give you ownership – but in a false pretense case – you were given both possession and ownership of the property. If you need additional information, contact our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm.
Grand Theft by Embezzlement
Grand theft by embezzlement occurs when you fraudulently obtain property that was entrusted to you. It’s commonly known as employee theft. The elements of the crime under CALCRIM 1806 are as follows:
- The owner entrusted you with their property
- You used the position of trust to fraudulently benefit yourself
- You had intent to permanently or temporarily deprive of their property
- The value of the property taken exceeded $950
It should be noted that even in cases where you may have intended to return the property to the owner, you could still be found guilty of grand theft by embezzlement.
Legal Penalties for PC 487 Grand Theft
As stated above, grand theft is known as a “wobbler” offense. This simply means the prosecutor can file it as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. If you are convicted of a grand theft misdemeanor, you are facing up to one year in the county jail and fines. If convicted of a felony case, you are facing up to three years in jail. If you are convicted of grand theft of a firearm, it’s always a felony case and you could be sentenced to up to three years in a California state prison and a “strike” under California’s three strike law. Additionally, grand theft firearm is a “serious” felony under California Penal Code Section 1192.7(c).
Penalty Enhancements for PC 487 Grand theft
It should be noted that depending on the total value of the property stolen, there could be a penalty enhancement added to your sentence. For example, if the total value to the property exceeded $65,000, you could be given an additional year on your sentence. If the value exceeded, $200,000, an additional two years on your sentence. If the value exceeded $1,300,000, an additional three years. Finally, if the value of the property exceeded $3,200,000, you could face an additional four years in a California state prison.
Related Offenses to PC 487 Grand Theft
California Penal Code Section 484 – Petty Theft
California Penal Code Section 666 – Petty Theft with Prior
California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) – Grand Theft Auto
California Penal Code Section 487(d)(2) – Grand Theft Firearm
California Penal Code Section 459 – Burglary
California Penal Code Section 211 – Robbery
California Penal Code Section 470 – Forgery
California Penal Code Section 503 – Embezzlement
California Penal Code Section 424 – Misappropriation of Public Funds
Legal Defenses for PC 487 Grand Theft
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have a range of potential legal defenses available based on the specific circumstances of your case. Every case of Penal Code 487 grand theft is unique, but the most common defenses include the following:
Lack of intent: Clearly, the main element of the crime in a PC 487 grand theft offense is intent. If we can cast doubt that you had specific intent to take someone’s property, you have a good chance at avoiding conviction. Perhaps you made an honest mistake. Grand theft requires that you unlawfully intended to take another’s property. There are a variety of situations where it may have been done inadvertently. When this happens, we might be able to use an accident defense.
Belief you owned property: Known as the “claim of right” defense, this approach makes the argument you had an honest and reasonable belief the property taken belonged to you. This defense requires that we can show you had a good faith belief it belonged to you, even if your belief turned out to wrong later.
False allegation: In some grand theft cases, our lawyers may be able to make an argument your arrest and charges are the result of a false accusation. Perhaps you are a victim of someone seeking revenge out of anger or jealously. Client’s facing false allegations are not that uncommon. Just because you were arrested, doesn’t automatically mean you are guilty.
Consult with our Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you or a member of your family are facing grand theft charges in violation of California Penal Code 487, you need to discuss your case with our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group. Early intervention into your case by our law firm can be critical to the outcome of your case. We have a history of success defending our client’s against any type of theft-related crime. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact us for a case review at 323-461-2000.
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