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Sentencing & Punishment for Theft – California Penal Code 487-488 PC

The sentencing and punishment for theft crimes (felony theft crimes and misdemeanor theft offenses) is determined by whether the offense is considered grand theft or petty theft under California Penal Code 487 and 488. The severity of penalties associated with a conviction depends upon the value and character of the property taken.

Punishment for Theft – Grand Theft

Felony Theft - Felony Grand Theft in California
Punishment for theft in California is severe. Upon conviction of grand theft, you face up to three years in state prison, depending on the facts of your case.

Grand theft is considered a “wobbler” in California, which means it can be charged as either felony theft or misdemeanor theft depending on the circumstances of your case and your previous criminal history. If you are convicted of misdemeanor grand theft, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If you are convicted of felony grand theft, you face a sentence of 16 months, two or three years in county jail and maximum fine of $10,000. Grand theft of a firearm is always charged as a felony offense.

Grand theft enhancements

There are also other factors that can increase your sentence for a grand theft conviction beyond this range. These include but are not limited to:

  • Damage or destruction of property (CA PC 12022.6): If you take, damage or destroy any property during the commission of a felony and with the intent to cause that taking, damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an addition term to be served consecutively with your underlying sentence:
    1. If the loss exceeds $65,000, the court shall impose an additional term of one year
    2. If the loss exceeds $200,000, the court shall impose an additional term of two years
    3. If the loss exceeds $1,300,000, the court shall impose an additional term of three years
    4. If the loss exceeds $3,200,000, the court shall impose an additional term of four years
  • Grand theft auto with a prior (CA PC 666.5): If you have a previous conviction of grand theft auto on your record, a subsequent conviction can result in a prison sentence of 2, 3 or 4 years and a maximum $10,000 fine

Punishment for Theft – Petty Theft

California Petty Theft Sentencing and Punishment
Punishment for petty theft can result in up to 364 days in county jail upon conviction of misdemeanor petty theft.

If you are convicted of petty theft, you face up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. However, if the value of the property taken was $50 or less and you have no other theft related offenses on your record, the charge can be reduced to an infraction and you will only be subject to a maximum fine of $250.

If you have been convicted three or more times for petty theft, grand theft, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, or robbery, a subsequent petty theft conviction can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. If you are convicted of misdemeanor petty theft, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If you are convicted of felony petty theft, you face a sentence of 16 months, two or three years in county jail and maximum fine of $10,000.

Court options at the time of sentencing

If you are convicted, the court has discretion in determining your punishment for theft, depending on the circumstances of your case. The court has the following options at time of sentencing:

  • The court can sentence you to one of three terms provided by law
    • Misdemeanor grand theft: up to 364 days in county jail
    • Felony grand theft: 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail
    • Petty theft: up to 6 months in county jail
    • Place you on probation and impose a sentence of up to one year in county jail
    •  Place you on probation with no jail time, but order you to do community service, a work release program and repay the value of the property taken
    • Place you on formal probation and assign you a probation officer


Probation terms for theft charges in California

When you are placed on probation the court will impose specific terms of probation that apply to the crime for which you were convicted. These terms of probation will include:

  1. Violate no law (other than a traffic infraction)
  2. Visit your probation officer as often as required by your probation terms
  3. Perform community service
  4. Pay restitution to compensate the victim

These are only a few of the probation terms that a court can impose. If you are found to be in violation of any of these terms, the court can sentence you to the maximum time allowed by law.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today If You Are Facing Severe Punishment for Theft Charges

partners 2015 - Theft laws - 484 PC
Contact the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today if you are facing severe punishment for theft charges in California.

The punishment for theft in California can be severe and potentially life changing. If you or someone you know has been accused of a theft offense, you need to contact an experienced defense attorney who will carefully review the facts and the law to give you the best representation possible.

With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Victorville and West Covina, Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience in defending our clients against charges of theft.  We will carefully review the evidence against you and help you win your case.

Let us show you how we protect our own. Call us today at (877) 466-5245 or fill out our confidential form. We will be there when you call.

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