When police smelled marijuana smoke emanating from a vehicle parked outside a construction site in Merced County, California, they probably expected to be charging the offenders with possession of a controlled substance. However, the scene revealed so much more, as the car was loaded with items stolen from the site and two men were sound asleep in the front seats. Reuters reported that the men were charged with burglary, among other offenses, just a few feet from the property where they’d stolen the goods. Burglary is one of several types of California theft crimes, which a criminal defense attorney can explain in more detail. In general, the crime depends on the circumstances of the case.
Theft: In short, theft is when you take property that doesn’t belong to you. California law breaks down the legal concept of theft.
· Petty Theft: The taking of property valued at $950 or less is petty theft, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of six months.
· Grand Theft: Any property with a value greater than $950 falls in the category of grand theft. If convicted, you could be facing up to a year in prison.
Theft is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances, making it a California “wobbler” crime.
Burglary: This offense involves entering onto real property, a building, or a vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony under California law – regardless of whether you actually commit a crime. A first-degree burglary involves entering a residence, whereas a second-degree burglary would involve a business or commercial space.
Burglary is also a wobbler crime because the details will dictate whether the charge is a felony or misdemeanor. If you’ve entered an inhabited home, the charge is felony first degree burglary. Entering another type of property, such as an office or store, the offense is a second degree burglary; you may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Robbery: You may be charged with robbery if you use physical force or fear to take someone else’s property, while the item is on their person or within their immediate presence. Because of the personal contact nature of a robbery, this offense is always a felony and is punishable by imprisonment of two to six years in a California state prison.
When a robbery takes place in an occupied residence or involving a person using an ATM, the charge is a first degree felony. In most other cases, the crime is a second degree felony.
Theft Crimes Resulting in a Prison Sentence
The only time that theft crimes would result in a prison sentence would be someone who had a very large amount or someone with several prior convictions. The amount of money stolen is always taken into effect as well as the amount of money that is paid back to the victims. The amount of money paid back is called restitution and it is something that the courts take into account when looking into a possible sentencing. If the defendant has done this before or has a pattern of committing these crimes then it is a lot more common that the crime could result in a prison sentence.
Federal Theft Crimes and Federal Prison Consultants
When any part of the federal government is involved in the process then this becomes a federal crime. Federal crimes are prosecuted a lot different than state crimes and are often a lot more serious in nature. An example would be wire or mail fraud, or robbing a federal bank or a federal building. These are the types of situations that would elevate the case to federal court which would then require a much more experienced lawyer in the area.
How Trusted Prison Consultants Can Help
No matter which theft crime charges you’re facing, your chances of a favorable outcome greatly increase if you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. An attorney knows what a prosecutor needs to prove, and knows how to attack the allegations. The penalties can be severe, including fines and prison time, so you need a lawyer who will fight for your rights.