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Small theft from a store: Petty Theft v. Burglary

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Jul 23, 2007 | 0 Comments

California law defines a burglary as entry into a building with the intent to steal. Even if nothing is taken, a burglary is committed when the entry happens (with the intent to steal or commit a felony inside the store). For example, prosecutors may argue that someone entering a store with a booster bag (one with false bottom), and scissors, shows premeditated conduct to steal at entry, and thus even if something under $50 is taken, the criminal conduct is a burglary. A burglary is a wobbler which means it could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Compare this to a Petty Theft, a violation of Penal Code Section 484. This crime is a misdemeanor. Anytime a theft occurs of items under $400 - California law deems a violation of this statute occurs. So, if there is no evidence of premeditation before entry into the store, a defendant is usually charged with a Petty Theft offense. If Defendant tells the police or store personnel that he or she planned the theft, a Burglary will also be charged. Tagged as: california criminal laws, federal law and defense, theft, white collar crime fraud theft laws


Anne Adams on December 4, 2007 at 8:50 p.m. wrote: I completely agree with the person above. It is difficult to simply presume that a person is intending to steal something based on upon their appearance or what they have in their possession. Bulglary shouldnt be convicted unless a person is caught in the act with the stolen object in hand. IF the person is caught during the act of theft or later proven to have stolen something, then definitely that person should be convicted and penalized. Kelsey Kernstine on November 6, 2007 at 12:40 a.m. wrote: How can someone tell if a person has the intent to steal? Yes, they may have a big bag, scissors, or supplies, but there is no guarantee that these people are intending to steal because they are carrying these items. Some people may carry these items on a regular basis. That is like saying, just because I carry a big purse and I steal something, I should be charged with burglary. That does not make any sense to me. I do not believe there is really anyway to prove that someone is intending to steal. Therefore, I do not believe that defendants should be charged with burglary by the items they are carrying. I think there should be more proof and justification for the charge. Yes, I do understand if a person tells the police that he or she planned the theft than they should be charged with burglary. However, if the defendant denies to stealing under burglary theft, I do not believe there is anyway to prove otherwise. In other words, I don

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...


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