Theft & Fraud
Theft & Fraud
California laws define theft as stealing property, either by larceny, embezzlement, or false pretense, all with the intent to deprive the owner of their property. The severity of criminal theft depends on two main things; the value of the property stolen and the defendant’s criminal history. While larceny, embezzlement, and theft by false pretenses are defining terms, California has numerous theft-related offenses in its theft laws, which are classified according to the value of the property taken at market value. Where services are stolen, courts typically determine their value by the price of the contract for the services or by the reasonable and ongoing wages of the services. (Penal Code 484)
Classifying theft offenses and their penalties
California is one among many states that classify theft by the value of the property taken.
- Petty theft (Penal Code 490) – This is classified as the theft of any property which is valued at $950 or less and is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties may include up to 6 months in jail and no more than $1,000 in criminal fines. However, if the stolen property was less than $50, the prosecution may right the offense off as an infraction which is punishable by a maximum of a $250 fine.
- Wobbler petty theft (Penal Code 666) – petty theft may also become a wobbler offense if the defendant has any of the following prior convictions:
- One or more prior theft-related offenses with time spent behind bars
- A prior conviction for a serious or violent crime
A felony conviction for petty theft can mean up to 3 years in jail.
- Grand theft (Penal Code 487, 490.2) – While petty theft involves stolen property below $950, grand theft is when the property is valued at more than this amount or the theft of a firearm. Grand theft is also a wobbler offense that is subject to either misdemeanor or felony charges.
- Looting (Penal Code 463) – Looting is the criminal act of stealing during a state emergency, local emergency, or an evacuation. Looting is typically a misdemeanor offense, but if the stolen property was over $950, the prosecution could pursue charges for either a misdemeanor or felony.
Other theft-related offenses include:
- Taking lost property without trying to find the owner
- Unlawfully selling debit/credit cards
- Failing to return rented property
- Unlawfully diverting property
California fraud laws
Fraud happens when one wrongfully uses deception against another with the intent to receive financial or personal gain. In order to prove a crime of fraud, a prosecutor must show the following:
- The defendant purposely misrepresented a material fact
- The defendant was with the knowledge that it is false
- The victim justifiably relied on the misrepresentation
- The misrepresentation resulted in the victim’s loss
Fraud also involves getting property that one isn’t entitled to, but it varies from theft in one main way; theft often involves obtaining the property by the use or the threat of force, while fraud offenders use deceptive means through false statements or false pretenses. There are many different types of crimes committed under fraud, but we’ve listed the most common below:
- Automobile Insurance Fraud – Penal Code 548 – 551
- Forgery and Identity Theft – Penal Code 472 and Penal Code 529
- Welfare Fraud – Welfare and Institutions Code 10980
- Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud – California Civil Codes 2945 and 2945.4
- Financial Fraud – Penal Codes 476, 484 (e)-(i)
- Worker Compensation Fraud – Insurance Code 1871.4, Penal Code 549, 550
All fraud offenses in California have their own severe punishment, but it ultimately depends on the circumstances and details of each case. If you or someone you know is currently facing fraud charges in Los Angeles, you need to have a good lawyer defending your case. Our LA firm at Saros Law APC can provide you with great expertise as a client in any fraud case. Do not hesitate to contact us at (310) 341-3466.