Definition and Aspects of Grand Theft:
Most citizens are aware that stealing is against the law; however, it’s not just the actions but the value of the goods taken that define the punishment and charges. Grand Theft, or California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), is the action of taking someone else’s property over the value of $950.00. Grand Theft (PC 487) is a misdemeanor or potentially felony-level offense and could be punished with expensive fines and even time spent in jail.
While the value of the items repossessed needs to be over $950, there are other circumstances that determine the type of Grand Theft and the legal repercussions associated with it.
Lastly, there are four types of Grand Thefts under California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), and while they are distinct in nature, the Jury or a Judge does not have to agree on which type of Grand Theft has been committed. All the Jury has to decide is if the Defendant took possession of another’s property over $950 in value in one of the four ways.
Grand Theft by Larceny:
Larceny is referring to the act of taking another person’s tangible property or more commonly known as theft. The elements of Grand Theft (PC 487) by Larceny are:
- The Defendant took possession of another’s property
- The Defendant did not have permission from the Owner
- At the time of the incident, the Defendant either:
- Intended to deprive the Owner of the property indefinitely
- Intended to deprive the Owner long enough that it would lessen the value of the property
- Or the Defendant moved the property for a period of time
For the last point, under California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), the distance which the Defendant has moved the property is unimportant, and there is no set period of time. If the Owner of the item did not know or give permission, it could be charged as a Grand Theft by Larceny.
Grand Theft by Larceny is often charged for shoplifting cases if the value of the goods taken exceeds $950.
Grand Theft by False Pretense:
Under California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), this is what is defined as Grand Theft by False Pretense:
- The Defendant intentionally and knowingly deceived another by distributing false information
- The Defendant acted in order to persuade the other for their possessions
- The Owner of the item relied on the Defendant’s untrue words and allowed the Defendant possession of their property
For the purposes of this statute, a false pretense is defined as a debatable idea or something that needs further explanation. If the Defendant intended to deceive the Owner of the property by saying something he/she knew to be false, failing to provide adequate information he/she is liable to provide or made promises the Defendant never intended to keep, it would be a Grand Theft by False Pretense.
In order to be charged with this crime, the Owner actually needs to hand over his/her possession to the Defendant willingly, relying on the false information they received. However, the lie does not have to be the sole reason the Defendant gains access to someone else’s property.
In order to prosecute someone for Grand Theft by False Pretense (PC 487), the Prosecution has to prove the below:
- A fake document or ‘false token’ of a contract by the Defendant
- A contract or written document that is signed or written by the Defendant
- Witness testimonies of at least two witnesses or one witness testimony and additional evidence
The reason why California courts require the Prosecution to obtain physical information is to defend people from false accusations on valid contracts. If someone decides to hand over ownership of an object but later changes his/her mind and tries to sue the Defendant to regain possession, this evidence can protect the accused party. To ensure there is no foul play involved, California Penal Code 487 (PC 487) requires two witnesses to testify against the Defendant in order to avoid false convictions.
Grand Theft by Trick:
Grand Theft by Trick (PC 487) is another form of Grand Theft. By definition, this is characterized as:
- The Defendant took possession of an item that someone else owned
- The Defendant deceived or used fraud to trick the Owner into taking possession of that item
- The Defendant had the intent of depriving the Owner of the property permanently or for an extended period of time where it loses from its value
- The Owner did not intend to give away ownership of the property
By definition, Grand Theft by Trick is quite closely related to Grand Theft by False Pretense, with the main difference being that for a Grand Theft by Trick, the Owner allows the Defendant to take possession of the property, but does not have the intention of letting him/her take ownership of it. While with Grand Theft by False Pretense, the Defendant is allowed to take possession and sometimes even ownership of the item.
Theft by Embezzlement:
Lastly, Grand Theft can be committed by Embezzlement. By definition, this is when:
- The Defendant was entrusted with a property by the Owner
- The Defendant then used that property to benefit himself/herself
- Or with the intent of depriving the Owner of the property permanently or temporarily
If the Defendant is trusted with taking possession of an item and misuses it for his/her own personal gains, even if he/she returns the item later, he/she could be charged with Embezzlement.
Criminal Offenses Related to Grand Theft:
Similar or related offenses to California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), Grand Theft:
- Robbery – California Penal Code 211 (PC 211)
- Petty Theft – California Penal Code 484 (PC 484)
- Petty Theft with a Prior Conviction – California Penal Code 666 (PC 666)
- Grand Theft Auto – California Vehicle Code 487 (VC 10851)
Examples of Grand Theft:
A woman wants to prank a new coworker and decides to hide the other person’s designer purse in the supply closet without telling anyone. The new coworker cannot find her bag for days, and since she does not bump into the prankster for a couple of days, the woman forgets. While all along she had the intention of returning the coworker’s property, she could be charged with California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), Grand Theft by Larceny, as the item was moved without the Owner’s knowledge or permission for an extended amount of time.
An example of a Grand Theft by Trick would be if the woman from the above example told the coworker that she would hold onto her designer purse while she’s out of town. However, the woman decides to sell the purse and spend the money for her own benefit. While in this scenario, the coworker handed over her belongings willingly, she had no intention of transferring ownership of the item. The woman lied to her coworker in order to gain possession of her object, and she could be charged with California Penal Code 487 (PC 487).
A man tells his girlfriend that since he has a higher credit score, she could sign over her house to him and so they could pay a lower monthly mortgage rate. The woman willingly signs over the title to her house to her boyfriend, who has no intention of making payments and instead decides to resell the house for his own profit. This could be an extreme example of Grand Theft by Embezzlement, and the man could face serious charges.
Defenses for Grand Theft:
One of the possible defenses is arguing lack of intent. If the Defendant did not have the intention of stealing, technically, it would not constitute as a Grand Theft under California Penal Code 487 (PC 487). As an example, if the Defendant accidentally hung onto a property without the knowledge of its presence or the intention of taking possession of it, it would not fall under Grand Theft.
If the Defendant had legal rights to a property and obtained it through a legitimate claim, then technically, the item belongs to the Defendant. Arguing this would mean it does not constitute as a Grand Theft (PC 487).
Lastly, false accusations are not unheard of. If the Defendant had legal ownership of a property, but someone falsely accused him/her, an experienced defense attorney could aid to clear the Defendant’s name and get the charges dismissed.
Consequences and Penalty for Grand Theft:
California Penal Code 487 (PC 487) is a wobbler offense, meaning it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the details of the crime and the history of the Defendant.
If the Defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, he/she is facing a jail sentence of up to one year.
If California Penal Code 487 (PC 487) is charged as a felony, the punishment is felony probation for up to one year and 16 months – 3 years in county jail.
If the Grand Theft involved a firearm, the offense is automatically escalated to a felony, and the possible sentence increases to 16 months – 3 years in state prison. This is also counted as a ‘strike’ on the Defendant’s record.
Additionally, there are other factors that can add to the penalty faced by the Defendant, depending on the value of the property taken. If the item was worth $65,000 or more, one additional year of jail or prison sentence can be added. If the property was worth $3,200,000, four years of additional sentencing can be tacked on.
Grand Theft, under California Penal Code 487 (PC 487), is a misdemeanor offense that can result in jail time and in certain cases, increase to a more serious felony charge. It is essential that if you or someone you know is charged with Grand Theft, you contact an expert attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record of larceny related cases and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Penal Code Section 487 (PC 487), Grand Theft. Book a free consultation today.