Theft by Fraud, Deceit or Trick – California Penal Code 484
Prosecution of Theft by Fraud, Deceit or Trick
Under California Penal Code section 484, any person who uses fraud or deceit to obtain possession to money, labor, or real personal property is guilty of theft by trick. In order to convict you of this offense, the prosecution must prove the following:
- You obtained property you knew was owned by someone else;
- The property owner consented to your possession of the property because you used fraud or deceit;
- When you obtained the property, you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property;
- You kept the property for any length of time; AND
- The owner did not intend to transfer ownership of the property.
1. Use of fraud or deceit to obtain the property
In order to be convicted of theft by trick you must have used fraud or deceit as a means to obtain possession of another’s property. This offense differs from larceny because your use of fraud or deceit must have tricked the owner into consenting to your possession of the property. Obtaining the owner’s consent to use the property for a specified purpose, while intending to use it in a different way, constitutes fraud or deceit. For example: You convince the victim that you are computer specialist and that he should give you his laptop so you can install the latest software on it. The truth is you know nothing about computers. As soon as he gives you the laptop you take it to a pawn shop and sell it for $100. Since you used fraud or deceit as a means to obtain the property, you can be convicted of theft by trick.
2. With the intent to permanently deprive
The prosecution must also prove that you intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property or long enough to deny him a major portion of its value or enjoyment. This intent must be formed before or during the time in which you took possession of the property. If you took the property but never had the intent to keep it or convert it to your own use, you cannot be convicted of this offense.
3. Kept the property for any length of time
In order to be convicted of theft by fraud, deceit or trick you need to have kept the property for any length of time, no matter how short. The crime is completed as soon as your take possession of the property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its use.
4. The owner did not intend to transfer ownership
When the owner consented to your taking of the property, he or she must have only intended to transfer possession rather than ownership or title. This distinction is what separates theft by fraud from theft by false pretenses. If the victim intended to transfer ownership of the property rather than possession, you cannot be convicted of theft by fraud, deceit or trick (although you can be charged with theft by false pretenses). For example: You formulate a plan to steal a car. You ask you neighbor to borrow his car so you can pick up some groceries. He gives you the keys and you drive off with the vehicle toward a local chop shop. Since the owner of the car only intended to transfer possession rather than title to the vehicle, you will likely be charged with theft by trick rather than theft by false pretenses.
Possible Defenses to Charges of Theft By Fraud, Deceit or Trick
Defense #1: You did not use deceit or fraud
The prosecution must prove that you used fraud or deceit to obtain possession of the property. Without a confession, the prosecution will likely rely on circumstantial evidence to show that you knew or reasonably should have known that the representation you made to victim was false or misleading. Your attorney can argue that you did not intend to use deceit or fraud in order to gain possession of the property and therefore cannot be convicted of this offense.
Defense #2: You did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property
You must have intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property in order to be convicted of theft by fraud, deceit or trick. If you used fraud or deceit to obtain possession of property but only intended only to borrow it for a short time rather than convert it to your own use, this can act as a defense to larceny by trick. Your attorney can argue that you lacked the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property and therefore cannot be convicted of this offense.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today if You Have Been Charged With Theft by Fraud, Deceit or Trick
If you or a loved one is facing charges of theft by fraud or deceit, also known as theft by trick in California, contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys today. With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, Los Angeles and San Diego, we are able to provide you with the immediate assistance that you and your family need during this difficult time.
Call us today at (877) 466-5245 or fill out our confidential form. We will be there .