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Frequently Asked Questions about Theft
Q: What is theft?
A: Theft involves the unlawful taking of another's property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the property. Theft also includes appropriating property fraudulently or defrauding a person of money, labor, or property by a false or fraudulent representation or pretense. Theft offenses typically include burglary, shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft, auto theft, joyriding, embezzlement, extortion, identity theft, fraud, car jacking, or computer access theft. The common thread is that each offense relates to conduct involving taking the property of another without his or her consent.
Q: Will I be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony?
A: Most theft offenses can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The value of the item taken or the existence of prior convictions often determines the seriousness of the crime. For example, in many states, taking items valued at under a specified amount, typically around $400 to $500, is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Thefts involving items in excess of that amount can be prosecuted as a felony.
In 2000, 32 percent of defendants charged with robbery eventually were sentenced to prison. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better chance you have of avoiding the most serious charges.
The burglary theft defense attorneys at the Van Nuys, Southern California law office of Eisner Gorin LLP, are former criminal trial prosecutors and State Bar Certified Criminal Trial Specialists with more than 50 years of combined courtroom experience defending people charged with burglary, shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft auto, or embezzlement. Don't let a mistake today ruin your life tomorrow. When it's time for an aggressive defense, count on Eisner Gorin LLP. Contact our office by e-mail, or call toll-free at 877-781-1570 for a prompt response.
If you're facing misdemeanor or felony charges for theft or shoplifting, don't talk to the police first. Talk to us. We speak English, Russian, Armenian, Spanish, Farsi, and Hebrew.
Theft - An Overview
When a person is charged with theft, it usually means that he or she is suspected of the unlawful taking of property that belongs to another person with the intent permanently to deprive the rightful owner of that property. Theft includes the crimes commonly known as larceny, embezzlement, shoplifting, using false pretenses to obtain property, receiving stolen property, and identity theft. The exact charge will depend upon the circumstances that surround the alleged offense. A conviction of a theft charge can involve severe penalties, but there are many defenses available to a person who has been charged. If you have been charged with theft, or a theft-related crime, or if you know someone who has been charged, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. By contacting an attorney as soon as possible, you increase your chances of mounting a successful defense, or even of avoiding more serious charges that could be brought. An expert criminal defense attorney can start working on your defense as soon as you contact him or her.
Many theft charges can be brought as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime and the value of the stolen items. A defendant convicted of a felony could serve a significant prison term, whereas a defendant charged with a misdemeanor may serve a short jail term or be required only to pay a fine or restitution. Many states define several levels of theft, typically including at least one type of petty theft and one type of grand theft, based on the value of the property taken. In many states, although petty theft is a misdemeanor, a second arrest for petty theft may be filed and punished as a felony, carrying serious penalties. An experienced criminal defense firm understands the tactics and obstacles that you will encounter and will work to get your charges dropped or reduced to a lesser offense in an effort to reach the best possible result for you.
Identity theft is an increasingly common crime. Offenders who are guilty of identity theft face severe penalties, as well as other consequences. Identity theft, or identity fraud as it is sometimes known, involves use of another person's personal information to commit fraud or theft. Identity theft offenses involve activities such as wrongfully obtaining the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, or bank account numbers of another person, and using that information to open credit card accounts, apply for loans, open bank accounts, steal money from the victim's existing accounts, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy, or obtain a job using the victim's name. Because identity theft is costly to society, prosecutors are rigorously pursuing the claims in most jurisdictions. Identity theft cases are complex and defending the charges requires the expertise of attorneys experienced in representing defendants accused of identity theft.
Under California Penal Code 487, grand theft is defined as a theft of real property, personal property, labor, or money from another individual with a loss amount of $950 or more. Losses under $950 are defined as petite theft. Grand theft is a catchall crime used to prosecute many forms of theft, whether accomplished by fraud, trick, or simply physically taking items without permission. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see a defendant charged with grand theft under Penal Code Section 487 and also simultaneously face charges for embezzlement, insurance fraud, healthcare fraud, real estate fraud, worker's compensation fraud, sales tax violations, or other financial crimes.
Responding to Theft Charges
Being charged with a serious crime such as theft can be devastating. If you are faced with the possibility of theft charges, you should immediately retain an experienced attorney. In some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate civil restitution so that no criminal charges are brought, and some prosecutors will not pursue a charge if civil negotiations are progressing. An attorney experienced in handling theft cases is skilled at avoiding prosecution whenever possible. If a civil resolution is not possible, an attorney hired early in the process may be able to help you avoid jail even if charges are brought against you. Retaining an attorney is your first, best response to any type of criminal charge.
Impact of White-Collar Theft Charges
Although there is no fixed definition of "white-collar crime," the term generally describes nonviolent crimes that are based on cheating or dishonesty, such as embezzlement, perjury, fraud, money-laundering, wire fraud, RICO claims, bankruptcy fraud theft, forgery, credit card fraud, counterfeiting, extortion, Internet fraud, insurance fraud, aiding and abetting, and computer hacking. Professionals or entrepreneurs under the cover of a legitimate business activity typically commit these crimes.
White-collar crimes are usually quite complex. Although they traditionally carried lesser penalties than other crimes because they were not associated with violence, there is a recent trend toward stricter punishment for white-collar crimes as people recognize the financial damage white-collar criminals inflict on society. Consequently, defendants convicted of white-collar crimes may incur enormous fines, be ordered to pay restitution, or spend significant time in jail or prison. Being convicted of a white-collar crime frequently also destroys the person's livelihood and career, and accuseds should contact an experienced advocate.