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San Diego Theft Defense Attorney

Mount a Solid Defense Against Theft Charges  |  Zentz &  Zentz

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San Diego Theft Defense Lawyer

Facing criminal charges is a serious situation. You need to have a proper defense and be ready to fight the prosecutor in court to prove your innocence. While theft charges are not the most serious type of charge you could face, you still want to put forth your best effort to defend yourself.

Trying to understand the law and handle your case often leads to a loss and serious penalties that you could avoid with the right legal representation. A San Diego theft defense attorney is the best option to ensure you have a good day in court. Your lawyer will use his or her experience and knowledge of California theft laws to help you defend yourself against the prosecutor's accusations.

Types of Theft Offenses

Theft offenses can be misdemeanors or felonies. You may hear people refer to theft as larceny. Both terms mean that you intentionally took the property of another person without that person's permission.

The type of property can be anything:
• Money
• Personal property
• Real estate
• Value of time, such as labor

There are two general types of theft:
• Petty
• Grand

Petty theft is when the property taken has a value of $950 or less. It is a misdemeanor charge. The most common type of petty theft is shoplifting, which involves entering a retail location during business hours to take property valued under $950.
Grand theft is where the property value is over $950. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Element To Prove Theft

To prove a general theft charge, either petty or grand, the prosecutor must show:
• You took property owned by someone else.
• You did not have the owner's consent.
• You intended to take it from the owner to deprive the owner of use.
• You moved the owner's belongings any distance and retained possession of it for any duration of time.

Note that moving the property and keeping it does not have to involve a large distance or long amount of time.
The prosecutor may also approach your case by proving theft by false pretense. The elements the prosecutor must prove are:
• You took property from its owner under false pretenses.
• You had the intent to persuade the owner to give it to you.
• The owner let you take his or her property because he or she believed your false claims.

Another approach is proving theft by trick:
• You took someone else's property.
• The owner consented because you used fraud to take it.
• You intended to keep the property and deprive the owner of use permanently.
• You kept it for any period of time.
• The owner did not intend to give you permanent ownership.

In some cases, the prosecutor will want to charge you with embezzlement, which is a white-collar theft crime. To prove this, 
the prosecutor will need to show the following:
• The owner entrusted you with the property.
• He or she did so with trust in you.
• You used the property for your own benefit.
• You deprived the owner of the property due to your use.

It is essential that your San Diego theft defense attorney knows the approach of the prosecutor. This will allow him or her to mount the proper defense to disprove the elements required to get a conviction.

Potential Penalties for Theft

The potential penalties the court may hand down if it finds you guilty of a theft charge depend on whether you face charges of petty or grand theft.

Petty theft charges can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. If the value of the property is $50 or less, the prosecutor can reduce the charges and impose a fine up to $250 as the only penalty.

Grand theft charges can lead to jail time up to one year and a fine up to $1,000 if your charge is a misdemeanor. If you face a felony charge, you could end up with a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine up to $10,000.

Punishment often depends on prior criminal history. If you had previous theft convictions, the judge could impose a harsher sentence.

Defenses Against Theft Charges

While you will want to work closely with your San Diego theft defense attorney, he or she will consult with you to come up with a proper defense to the charges. There are a few options you can use, but you will need to provide evidence that backs up your claim.

Claim of ownership is one option. You could use this defense if you thought the property was yours. Most often, this would be a situation where there was a misunderstanding over ownership.

Another option for a defense is the theft was a mistake. This may go hand-in-hand with the claim of ownership defense. You might have thought an item was yours and mistakenly took it. Another situation where this may apply is if you grab something without realizing it isn't yours. In any case, a mistake defense shows you had no intent to steal.

You can also defend against charges by showing the owner gave you consent to take the property. This can get sticky if the prosecutor is using the approach of theft by trick or false pretense as having the owner's permission is present in both of these situations. The main thing you will have to prove is that the owner gave you the property of his or her own free will with no fraud on your part.

Other defense options include entrapment and intoxication, leading to a lack of intent. Entrapment would require showing that someone set you up to commit a theft, and you did not have any intent to commit the act. Intoxication leading to lack of intent would be a situation where you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had no control over your actions, so you essentially did not even know that you were committing a theft.

Hire an Attorney Today

If you are facing theft charges, you need a skilled attorney by your side to help you with your defense. Get the assistance of an experienced San Diego theft defense lawyer by contacting us today. You can also call us at 702-800-3190.

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