The Crime of Theft by False Pretenses in California - PC 532
Theft by false pretenses is described under California Penal Code Section 532 PC, which can be committed in several different ways.
This statute prohibits defrauding somebody of their money or property using false promises, such as convincing someone to voluntarily give up of something of value based fraudulent representation.
This type of theft crime is achieved through deception, rather than using some type of physical force to obtain property.
A “false pretense” is described as any word or act when the intent is to deceive someone, including:
- Providing someone information you know is false
- Making a promise you have no intention of keeping
- Not giving someone information you are obligated to provide
- Making a reckless misrepresentation to someone
The penalties for this type of theft offense will normally depend on the total value of the items that was taken.
As stated in the list above, it's worth highlighting that a prosecutor can still charge you with Penal Code 532 PC theft by false pretenses if they believe you intentionally omitted information when obligated to provide it.
What is the Definition of Penal Code 532 PC?
The definition of theft by false pretenses is listed under California Penal Code 532 PC, which says:
- Any person who knowingly and by design, using any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds someone of money, labor, property, or who causes others to report falsely of their wealth or character, and by imposing upon someone obtains credit and fraudulently obtains money, property, or labor is guilty of theft by false pretenses.
In other words, a prosecutor can charge you with PC 532 for lying to another person in order to persuade them to give you their property, money, or anything that has value.
What Must a Prosecutor Prove for a PC 532 Conviction?
In order for a prosecutor to convict you of violating PC 532, theft by false pretenses, they must be able to prove several important factors.
These are commonly known as the “elements of the crime” and they include:
- You knowingly and intentionally deceived another person by a false pretense
- Your specific intent was to convince them to give you their property
- The owner only gave you possession of their property or money because they relied on your false representation or pretense
- Once you received their property or money, you had an intent to deprive the owner for an extended period of time or permanently
A prosecutor will also need to show you actually made the false pretense, which they normally attempt to prove using:
- A false or fraudulent token
- A signed written note related to the false pretense
- Testimony from separate witnesses and/or corroborating evidence
As you can see, a “false pretense” covers a wide range of conduct, but the common theme is the intent purpose to deceive.
This could include just making reckless statements without any information to justify it's true, but a prosecutor's key factor they must prove is “intent.”
Also, another important factor to prove for a PC 532 conviction is that the victim only gave you their property because they believed your false statements were true.
What are the Related California Crimes for Theft by False Pretenses?
Penal Code 532 PC theft by false pretenses is closely related to many California white collar crimes related to fraud or theft, including:
- Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft
- Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft
- Penal Code 476 PC – check fraud
- Penal Code 470 PC – forgery
- Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse
What are the Penalties for a Penal Code 532 PC Conviction?
If you are convicted for violating California Penal Code 532 PC, theft by false pretenses, the penalties will depend on the value of the property that was taken.
If the value of property was less than $950, it's a misdemeanor petty theft with the following penalties:
- Up to six months in a county jail, and
- A fine up to $1,000, or both jail and fine
If the value of property was $950 or more, it's a grand theft “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.
If you are convicted of a felony grand theft, the penalties include:
- Up to one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor
- 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison for a felony
How Can I Fight Theft by False Pretenses Charges?
If you were accused of violating California Penal Code 532 PC, theft by false pretenses, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a range of strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. Some common defense includes:
There was no intent to deceive – a crucial element of the crime for a prosecutor is to show you intentionally deceived someone. Our criminal lawyers might be able to make an argument that you:
- Actually believed what you said was true
- Planned on keeping your promise
- Made an honest mistake
- Didn't give information you knew was false
- Had no specific intent to deceive
It should be noted the prosecutor has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
There was a lack of reliance – yet another crucial key element of the crime is that the victim relied on your false information to obtain their property.
Our criminal defense attorneys might be able to make an argument that:
- Victim didn't rely your statements to give you their property
- Owner would have given you the property regardless of conduct
Every penal Code 532 PC case is unique and we will need to closely review all the details to prepare an effective defense strategy.
Contact Eisner Gorin LLP for Help with Theft Charges
If you or a family member were charged with theft by false pretenses defined under California Penal Code 532 PC, call our Los Angeles criminal lawyers for help.
You should remain silent and not make any statements to law enforcement.
Our experienced attorneys will thoroughly examine the circumstances and evidence in order to determine the best legal options moving forward.
Through pre-filing intervention, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of charges.
Eisner Gorin LLP are a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We represent clients throughout Southern California.
Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for a consultation at (877) 781-1570.