Under California Penal Code sections 484 and 532, theft by false pretenses is the fraudulent or deceitful acquisition of both title and possession of someone else’s property. In other words, you can be charged with theft by false pretenses if you, by design or plan, lie or give a false promise in order to convince another person to voluntarily pass ownership of his or her property to you or another. 1 Terms often associated with this crime are con artist, swindler and scammer.
For example, if you buy something off another person and compensate them with counterfeit money, you could be charged with PC 484. As a seller, if you represent that you’re selling a genuine brand name product, but instead sell a counterfeit, or sell something on eBay and fail to deliver the product after accepting payment, you can be charged under PC 484.
Difference between Theft and Theft by False Pretenses
The biggest difference between petty theft (also referred to as larceny) and theft by false pretenses is that theft by false pretense involves the use of fraud or deceit. For a petty theft like shoplifting, the owner does not give you permission to take possession of his or her property. Under theft by false pretenses, you convince the owner not only to give you possession of the property, but also to transfer ownership of that property to you (at least initially) with his or her consent.
For false pretenses, it is not necessary that you personally benefit at all from the theft. If you make a fraudulent statement in order to obtain a donation for a charity or political campaign, for example, you could be charged with theft by false pretenses.
In California, theft crimes have been consolidated into a single statute, PC 484, which covers all types of theft, including larceny, larceny by trick, and embezzlement.
For purposes of PC 484, the property taken under false pretenses can be:
- A house or lease of a house
- Labor, or
- Any personal property, including money
Consequences of Grand Theft by False Pretense
For purposes of punishment, all theft crimes including theft by false pretenses are divided into two categories: petty theft and grand theft.
Generally, to be charged with grand theft by false pretenses, you must have wrongfully acquired property that is valued at more than $950. For petty theft, the value of the property you’ve acquired can be any amount, no matter how small.
Grand theft by false pretenses is a felony. If convicted of grand theft, you could face up to three years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Petty theft by false pretense is a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to a $1,000 fine, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, or both.
Our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich know the legal defenses to theft crimes. Some defenses might include:
- You did not have the specific intent to deceive another in taking his or her property; OR
- You did not make any false statement or writing; OR
- The owner did not rely on the fraudulent statement in giving his or her property away.
Call the Theft Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with a theft crime, you need to contact an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately.
At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges for over 30 years. We will meet with you immediately and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the very best outcome possible for your case.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [Pen. Code, § 532]↩