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Criminal Defense Information for Grand Theft (Cal. Penal Code s. 487)

  1. What is Grand Theft?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Grand Theft?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Grand Theft?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Grand Theft?
  1. What is Grand Theft?

    Grand Theft is any theft that is:

    These are not all instances that constitute grand theft, but they are the majority of them.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Grand Theft?

    To prove the defendant committed Grand Theft, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Took something from another person or business or;
    2. Fraudulently appropriated property or labor; and
    3. Intended to deprive the owner of the property.

    Cal. Pen. Code s. 484 Opens in New Window.

  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Grand Theft?

    Grand Theft is a wobbler. Generally, if the theft does not include stealing a firearm, it is deemed a misdemeanor and the sentence is 1 year in jail and any applicable fines. Cal. Pen. Code s. 489 (b) Opens in New Window.

    If the crime included theft of a firearm, the theft is a felony and carries sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years in prison plus applicable fines. Cal. Pen. Code s. 489 (a) Opens in New Window.

    If the defendant has prior serious felonies on his record, the theft will be deemed a felony and will be sentenced according to Cal. Pen. Code s. 1170(h) Opens in New Window, taking into account the defendant's prior history.

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Grand Theft?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Grand Theft, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Grand Theft, some of these justifications include:

    • Permission from the other person (e.g., lending of the property, gift of the property);
    • Alibi;
    • The defendant owned the property;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Someone framed the defendant;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.
See also, Burglary, Embezzlement, Petty Theft, Robbery.