Penal Code 487 PC.2 defines grand theft (larceny) is the unlawful taking of someone else’s property when:
- the property is valued more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) OR
- the property is a car or a firearm OR
- the property is a certain type of animal OR
- The property was forcibly removed from its owner (i.e. mugging)
Some kinds of property can result a grand theft charge in California if they are worth more than $250. These include farm crops (fruits, vegetables, etc.) and ocean produce such as fish or seaweed.
Grand theft can be committed by larceny, which involves intentional and unauthorized taking and removal of someone else’s property. There is also grand theft by false pretense, which happens when a person knowingly and intentionally deceives somebody by telling them something that persuades them to let the defendant take possession of their property. A third category is grand theft by trick, which is when someone intentionally uses fraud or deceit to take possession of someone else’s property, either permanently or long enough to deprive them of much of its value or enjoyment.
Under California law, grand theft is a ‘wobbler’, meaning that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony grand theft. Misdemeanor grand theft is punishable by up to one year in jail while felony grand theft can result in up to three years in prison, depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s prior record, if any.
Grand theft at the corporate and government levels is prosecuted as a federal offense. Examples include embezzlement of corporate or public funds and defrauding the government or a corporation of money or property. At the federal level, grand theft is not assessed by the value of the stolen property: the only factor is that the act was committed. If convicted, a person can spend up to five years in federal prison and / or be fined between $5,000 and $10,000 for each individual offense.
Embezzlement, Fraud, Petty theft (shoplifting)
A grand theft conviction on someone’s record can have professional and personal repercussions. Anyone charged with grand theft in California should consult a California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A person may successfully defend themselves against a grand theft charge if they can prove that they did not intend to steal, the allegedly stolen property actually belonged to them, the item’s owner consented to its being taken, or they were falsely accused.
On June 10, 2014, Kelvin Piazza, 51, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and filing a fraudulent insurance claim. The arrest resulted from a criminal investigation involving Piazza’s disability insurance claim. It was revealed that he had returned to work full time in June 2011 and failed to notify Standard Insurance Company, which issued the disability payments. He continued to cash disability checks between June 6, 2011 and October 18, 2011, totaling nearly $14,000.