Petty Theft - Penal Code 484(a) & 488

Petty Theft is defined as the unlawful taking of property valued at $950 or less. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be charged with one of the many forms of Petty Theft, such as theft by fraud and theft by embezzlement. 

Theft by Fraud

Theft by Fraud occurs when a person uses fraud or deceit to obtain possession to money, labor, or personal property. In order to convict you of this offense, the prosecution must prove:

  1. You obtained property you knew was obtained by someone else;
  2. The property owner allowed you to use or possess the property because you used fraud or deceit;
  3. When you obtained the property, you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner's possession for such a long period of time that the owner would have been deprived of significant value of the property;
  4. You kept the property for any length of time; and 
  5. The property owner did not intend to give up ownership of the property

Example: John asks his neighbor to borrow his $600 lawnmower for a day, but John actually intends to keep it forever. 

Theft by Embezzlement

Theft by Embezzlement occurs when a person, who in their capacity as an employee, takes property (usually money) that they have been legally entrusted with. Therefore, in this situation the victim is the person's employer. Penalties for misdemeanor Theft by Embezzlement ($950 or less) may include up to 1 year in county jail, in addition to a fine of up to $1,000. Penalties for felony Theft by Embezzlement ($951+) may include up to 3 years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Example: Mary, who works at an expensive shoe store, is entrusted with a shipment of 50 pairs of shoes. Mary decides that her boss won't notice if one of those pairs goes missing and therefore takes one.