Riverside Theft Attorney
Charges of theft and embezzlement can be at the misdemeanor or felony level. While both charges revolve around property crimes, they are not exactly the same thing.
The main difference is that in theft, you are accused of taking someone else’s property without their permission. With embezzlement, however, you’re facing accusations of using – or stealing – someone else’s property that has been entrusted to you.
On this page, we’ll define both theft and embezzlement, provide highlights of what California law says about the charges, the potential penalties involved and strategies for a successful defense.
Keep in mind that all cases are unique. Whether or not you’ve actually committed the actions you’re accused of and are facing charges of either theft or embezzlement, there’s no “cookie-cutter” approach to mounting a successful defense. Rather, the wise move is to actually meet with a skilled defense attorney at Sharp Criminal Lawyers.
What is theft?
The basics of California theft law are covered in Penal Code Section 484. Theft can involve a host of things, including the taking of one’s personal property, money, real property (practically any property that is attached directly to land) and even the value of provided services or labor.
Theft can include non-violent transgressions like shoplifting, deception (which can include fraud, identity theft, etc.) and violent offenses, including robbery, burglary, carjacking, bank robbery, etc.
What are the penalties for theft in California?
Theft in California can be prosecuted as petty theft or grand theft – it all depends on the value of what was allegedly taken. The difference maker is that if what was stolen is valued at more than $950, the charge will be grand theft. For this, you can face between 16 months and 3 years of jail time.
Anything valued at below $950 is considered to be petty theft, and will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor. Punishment for this can include jail time of up to 6 months fines of up to $1,000 – or a combination of both.
If the value of what was alleged to have been stolen is less than $50, there’s a very good chance that the fine will be no more than $250 and no jail time whatsoever.
However, if you have been convicted of a serious or violent crime, or a sexual offense crime that forced you to register as a sex offender in the past, the case can easily be changed to a felony, which can result in imprisonment for 16 months, 2 years or 3 years.
What are examples of successful defenses for theft charges?
Among the defenses proven to be successful in court in reducing or erasing theft charges are:
- you had permission from the owner of the property to possess it;
- you had no intention of actually taking the merchandise (for example, you forgot to pay for goods at a store); and
- you had reason to believe that the property in question was actually yours.
Burglary Charges Can Be Added to Theft Charges
In certain circumstances, you could be accused of burglary while in the process of theft. Burglary can be a tricky charge because it revolves around intent. As long as you entered a property with the intent of committing a crime, you will most likely face charges of burglary whether or not the intended crime was actually committed.
That can make the prosecution’s job much easier, because all that is needed is the proof of intent to commit a crime.
Different Categories of Burglary
The burglary charge itself can fall into one of two categories: 1st degree burglary and 2nd degree burglary.
- 1st degree burglary is breaking into a residence – or a place designed to be lived in – with intent to commit a crime. It doesn’t matter whether or not the inhabitants are present during the break-in.
- For 1st degree burglary – which is always a felony – you could face imprisonment in the California State Prison for 2, 4, or 6 years.
An important thing to keep in mind is that 1st degree burglary is a “strikeable” offense under California’s 3 Strikes Law, which can result in prison sentences of 25 years to life.
- 2nd degree burglary involves entry into other places or things that are not designed to be lived in. For example, breaking into a vehicle would result in charges of 2nd degree burglary.
The punishment for 2nd degree burglary varies because it is a “wobbler” charge – one that can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor. In making the decision of how to proceed with the charge, prosecutors will take into account the specifics of the incident and your previous criminal history, if you have one.
What are examples of successful defenses for burglary charges?
Remember, whether or not you are charged with 1st or 2nd degree burglary, what must be proven by the prosecution is your intent to commit a crime.
Among the numerous and often successful defenses for burglary charges are:
- the owner of the residence actually invited you in;
- you had no idea the persons you were with intended to commit a crime;
- your constitutional rights were violated police officers;
- you didn’t actually enter the structure (entry occurs when you cross the threshold); and
- the vehicle that you attempted to enter was actually unlocked.
What does California law say about embezzlement?
Covered under Penal Code Section 503, embezzlement differs from general theft charges in that you are accused of fraudulently taking something that has been entrusted to your care.
While most cases portrayed in the news media involve large lump sums of money, it can also involve smaller sums and even property.
A key component to remember is that you do not have to keep the money or property that has been entrusted to you; rather, it’s that you allegedly misused something that ultimately belonged to someone else.
What are the penalties for embezzlement in California?
Embezzlement charges are much like those of grand theft and petty theft – it depends upon the actual value of what was allegedly misused.
The charge will be viewed as a charge of grand theft – which is a wobbler charge (you can be charged with misdemeanor or felony depending on circumstance and your past) – if what was misused was worth more than $950, was a vehicle or firearm.
If the property is deemed to be worth less than $950, it will be viewed as petty theft – which is a misdemeanor, which could net you up to 6 months in the county jail.
What are examples of successful defenses for embezzlement charges in California?
Facing embezzlement charges can be confusing and intimidating; however, there are a host of defenses that a skilled defense attorney can develop and deploy on your behalf to either have the charges dropped or having the penalties seriously reduced.
- you believed truthfully that you had a right to the property in question;
- another person entrapped you;
- you deposited funds in your own account by mistake (perhaps you were under duress or under the effects of prescription medication); and
- you had no criminal intent to misuse what was entrusted to you.
If you’ve facing charges for theft or embezzlement in Riverside or the Los Angeles area, call Sharp Criminal Lawyers.
Your best bet for a positive outcome, regardless of whether you’ve done what you’re accused of, is to hire the an experienced criminal defense lawyer, who has the experience and reputation for developing winning legal strategies. Stephen has obtained countless not guilty verdicts in Riverside County and this experience can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
Call Sharp Criminal Lawyers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Free legal info by phone at 951-777-1111.