California Criminal Defense Blog

Many people who are arrested for petty theft may not see the reason to hire a criminal defense attorney and may choose to fight the charge themselves. Although it may seem you are saving money by fighting a petty theft charge by yourself, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a huge difference in your case and in your future.

What is Petty Theft? (PC 488)

Under California criminal law, theft is divided into two degrees: grand theft and petty theft. 1 Grand theft is theft of property valued at more than $950. 2 Petty theft is theft of property that is valued at $950 or less. 2

Consequences of Petty Theft

Generally, if you are convicted of petty theft, you could face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 4

Consequences of a petty theft conviction.

A petty theft conviction may result in harsh penalties.

However, you could face more serious consequences if you are convicted of petty theft with a prior under California Penal Code Section 666. In order to be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove:

  • You have been previously convicted of a theft-related crime, such as petty theft, grand theft, burglary, carjacking or robbery, and
  • You have previously convicted of:
    • Theft or fraud of an elderly person
    • A sex crime that requires you to register as a sex offender for life, or
    • A violent crime, such as murder or attempted murder; and
  • You served time in prison or jail for these prior convictions

You could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for petty theft with a prior. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail. If you are convicted of a felony, you could be sentenced to 16 months, two or three years in prison.

Immigration Issues Surrounding Petty Theft

If you are convicted of petty theft, you will likely face immigration issues, depending on whether you are a U.S. citizen. If you possess a green card, you could be denied citizenship if you are convicted of petty theft. Petty theft is considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” and could lead to your deportation.

Why Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney is Worth It

Given the consequences you face if you are charged with petty theft, having a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to fight the possible charges is worth it. Here’s how our skilled criminal defense attorney can help you today:

The Criminal Court System Can Be Confusing

You may be familiar with court proceedings from television shows and movies. However, real court proceedings are not what is portrayed in the media. Your Wallin & Klarich attorney knows the California court system, and will help you navigate this complex process.

Negotiating a Better Plea Bargain

Additionally, having an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side to fight for you may help you receive a better plea bargain from the prosecutor. For example, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate for you to serve community service in lieu of a jail sentence.

Call the Theft Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

Petty theft can carry heavy consequences. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with petty theft, you need to contact Wallin & Klarich immediately. The theft attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending those facing theft charges for over 30 years. We can help you too.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our experienced criminal defense attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5425 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [PC 486]
2. [PC 487]
3. [PC 488; PC 490.2]
4. [PC 490]

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