Petty Theft:
Stealing a Property Worth Less than $950

Petty Theft is one of the most common theft charges in California. Defined under California Penal Code Section 484(a), this type of theft can be done by larceny, false pretenses (Penal Code 532), and by embezzlement (PC 503). Petty Theft is the is the unlawful taking of property worth $950.00 or less. If the value exceeds $950.00, then the more serious crime of grand theft can be charged.

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  1. What does the law of “Petty Theft” says?
  2. What are the penalties for Petty theft?
  3. Can I get my record expunged?
  4. How do you compute the value of the taken property?
  5. What does the prosecutor need to prove to obtain a conviction for petty theft?

What does the law say?

“Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.

In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern.

For the purposes of this section, any false or fraudulent representation or pretense made shall be treated as continuing, so as to cover any money, property or service received as a result thereof, and the complaint, information or indictment may charge that the crime was committed on any date during the particular period in question.

The hiring of any additional employee or employees without advising each of them of every labor claim due and unpaid and every judgment that the employer has been unable to meet shall be prima facie evidence of intent to defraud.”

What are the penalties for Petty theft?

Petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor in California and the crime is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to six months, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

As an alternative to jail time, a judge has the discretion to award a defendant with summary probation. Furthermore, if a person has a prior conviction under PC 484, this conviction, they may have immigration consequences if they are noncitizens.

Can I get my record expunged?

A person convicted of this offense can also seek to have the conviction expunged once they successfully completes their probation and/or jail time. Call our office to discuss the expungement procedure in your applicable county.

How do you compute the value of the taken property?

Courts have a formula that they use to decide the value of the property taken. This computation is referred to as the “fair market value.” The fair market value of an item is the highest price obtainable in the market place as between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

What does the prosecutor need to prove to obtain a conviction for petty theft?

To prove a defendant committed this offense, the prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  • The defendant took possession of property belonging to someone else,
  • The defendant took the property without the consent of the owner,
  • At the time of the taking of the property the defendant intended to remove it from the owner’s possession,
  • The defendant moved the property (even a small distance satisfies this element),
  • The defendant kept it for a period of time (however brief), and The value of the property was $950 or less.
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