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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. This may include the theft of a firearm or an automobile.

Other Types of Theft Crimes

In addition to petty theft and grand theft, there are various other crimes that fall under the umbrella of theft, including the following:
Possession of or receiving stolen property. This type of theft includes knowingly concealing, selling, receiving, or buying property that was stolen from another individual.
Identity theft. This includes the act of taking an individual’s personal information and using it for purposes that are against the law.
Robbery. This type of theft includes taking personal property from another individual using fear or force.
Burglary. When a burglary is committed, it involves entering another person’s property with the intent to commit a felony.

If you have been accused of committing any of these types of theft, you are facing the possibility of severe punishment. All theft crimes fall under either felonies or misdemeanors. The standard punishment for these crimes is typically fines, jail time, or a combination of the two. Having a reputable San Diego theft attorney on your side is essential to your defense.

How Proposition 47 Affected Theft Crimes

Under Prop 47, passed in 2014, theft crimes of property valued at $950 or less must be charged as misdemeanors, and not felonies. It also allows for all prior felony theft convictions to be retroactively resentenced and reclassified. This may include check fraud for amounts of less than $950, shoplifting cases which were formerly charged as commercial burglary, receiving stolen property that was valued at no more than $950, firearm theft, and automobile theft.

Another result of Prop 47 was the narrowing effect it had on the types of priors that make the defendant eligible for prosecution. For instance, individuals who have previous violent or serious felonies, or individuals who have been required to register as sex offenders may not seek relief retroactively.

The penalties for some categories of theft have been lessened by Proposition 47, but it is vital to remember that being convicted of these crimes may result in detrimental consequences on individuals’ immigration procedures, professional licensing, and employment in general. For this reason, it is crucial to hire an experienced, knowledgeable San Diego theft lawyer as soon as possible when you are charged with this type of crime. Doing so will greatly increase the possibility that you will achieve a positive outcome and be able to keep your record clean.

One possibility that your San Diego theft attorney may consider is seeking a diversion program, which acts as a means to avoid criminal conviction. If you are charged with a misdemeanor theft, your lawyer may be able to work out a “civil compromise,” in which you are able to make restitution to the victim of your crime. If the victim agrees to this, the compromise that is achieved is that your criminal case is dismissed in exchange for your restitution.

Element To Prove Theft Charges

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 Crimes

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. These 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 for grand theft 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.

Grand theft of firearms. These thefts are nearly always charged as felonies, and conviction could mean sixteen months to three years in California state prison.

Grand theft auto. If you have been accused of taking a vehicle valued at more than $950, you will most likely be charged with a felony, and face the same possible penalties that grand theft carries.

Robbery. This type of theft is subject to the state of California’s “Three Strikes Law.” This means that the crime is always charged as a felony, because it involves the risk of violence to innocent individuals. Since robbery means taking possessions from another person against their will, using fear or force, there are various factors that may affect the outcome of the case. For instance, injury to an individual during the robbery or the use of weapons when committing the crime are components that are likely to increase a prison sentence if you are convicted.

The concept of “force” in relation to a robbery can be applied to many scenarios, regardless of how minor the situation may seem. Consider shoplifting as an example; if you have been caught shoplifting, and resisted store security while trying to escape, it may result in robbery charges being brought against you.

First degree robbery charges involve stealing from a person who has used an ATM and is still in the area of the machine, passengers or drivers in a vehicle such as a taxi, subway, or bus, and inhabited structures. Conviction on these charges may include a jail sentence of anywhere from three to nine years in a California state prison.

If a robbery doesn’t fall under the requirements for first degree, then it will be charged as a second-degree robbery. If convicted of this type of crime, you will be facing two to five years in prison.

Receiving stolen property. This crime, although it is often looked at as a less serious offense, may actually be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the stolen property the individual has received.

When you are charged with the crime of buying, selling, concealing, or withholding any property that you know was stolen, your only defense may be whether you could have known you were receiving stolen property. The punishment, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, may be a year or less in county jail. However, if you are convicted of a felony, you could spend anywhere from sixteen months to three years in prison.

Burglary. If you have been charged with entering a building (including a vehicle, hotel room, tents, home, or other structures), intending to commit a felony or theft, and are convicted of first-degree residential burglary, you may face two to six years in state prison. Second-degree commercial burglary, such as robbing a store at night when no one resides there, may result in as little as sixteen months or as much as three years in county jail.

Shoplifting. Stealing merchandise from a store valued up to $950, and being convicted could result in six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, even for a first offense in San Diego. The punishment may also include up to three years of probation. One of the long-term repercussions that teenage shoplifters find with having this charge on their record is the inability to attend the college they wish to go to.

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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