Consider this scenario: you buy your books from another student, or an ad posted on a school bulletin board—when you go to sell back the textbooks after the semester is over, the bookstore agent checks the books and says they’re stolen. Could you be charged with textbook theft?
Around the nation, organized groups have been caught stealing textbooks and prosecuted in recent years. In some cases, school librarians, bookstore agents and other school district employees were caught taking hundreds of school textbooks and turning them over to third parties for resale.1
Because textbook theft is rising, school officials and police have begun to track the books, often requiring the seller to show ID. Also, police and school officials have educated students to mark their textbooks so that if they’re stolen, book dealers are alerted and can call the police or campus security.2
The consequences of textbook theft can be severe. If you’ve been accused of textbook theft, you need the services of an experienced lawyer.
Stolen Property and California Law
If you are accused of stealing textbooks, you could be expelled from school under California Education Code 76030. However, you could face additional punishment, including charges of theft, embezzlement or receiving stolen property.
Consequences of Textbook Theft
Petty theft, stealing property valued under $950, is a wobbler offense. You can be charged with an infraction or a misdemeanor for this crime. Infractions are not punishable by jail time. Misdemeanor petty theft can get you up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1000, or both (PC 488).
Grand theft of property valued at over $950 is also a wobbler in California. The prosecutor has the discretion to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. A conviction of felony grand theft carries a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in county jail. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to a year in county jail, a fine of up to $1000, or both (PC 487).
Consequences of Embezzlement
If you work at a bookstore or library and are convicted of textbook theft, you can be charged with embezzlement. If the stolen books are state or federal property, embezzlement is an automatic felony (PC 514).
Consequences of Receiving Stolen Property
If you buy textbooks that were stolen, you can be charged with receiving stolen property (PC 496). Receiving stolen property is also a wobbler. If you receive stolen property that is valued under $950, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If the value of the stolen property is above $950, you can be charged with a felony. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction for receiving stolen property (under $950) is up to a year in jail and $1000 in fines and court costs. The punishment for a felony is up to three years in jail and $10,000 in fines.
You May Have Other Alternatives Available
If you’re a student and you don’t have the money to buy your textbooks for the upcoming semester, you should talk to a school counselor. Many California State Colleges have programs which cover the cost of textbooks in exchange for volunteer work on campus. Professors make books available to check out from the school library. Never jeopardize your future by knowingly becoming involved in theft or purchasing stolen textbooks.
Defenses to Theft or Possession of Stolen Property
There are a number of defenses to theft and possession of stolen property charges that an experienced lawyer can mount on your behalf, including:
Defenses to Theft
- You did not have the specific intent to steal when you took the item.
- You sincerely believed you had the right to possession of the property.
- You were intoxicated when the theft occurred and lacked mental capacity.
- You were given permission by the owner to convert the property to personal use.
Defenses to Receiving Stolen Property
- You did not know the property was stolen.
- You intended to return the property to the rightful owner or turn it in to the police.
In order to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Call the Theft Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
Our team of attorneys at Wallin & Klarich has been successfully defending clients against theft charges and other serious criminal charges for over 30 years. We have offices in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks.
If you’ve been accused of textbook theft, you don’t have to face criminal charges alone. Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL for a free consultation. We will be there when you call.