California law defines felony theft (sometimes called grand theft) as any theft where the stolen property has a value of more than $950.00. Because of this, even shoplifting can be considered a felony if the shoplifted items were expensive enough.
The main differences between a felony and a misdemeanor in the state of California lie in the value of the stolen goods — and the punishments for each. While misdemeanor theft is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for a period of months and/or a fine of $1,000, felony theft has severe consequences.
Examples of Felony Theft
Because felony theft is defined by the monetary value stolen, it can cover a wide umbrella of theft related crimes. These may include:
- Theft by false pretenses
- Failure to return rented property
- Public housing fraud
- Unlawful diversion of funds
- Falsified information to sell an item to a pawnbroker
- Unlawfully selling or transferring a debit or credit card
Looting can fall somewhere in the middle, even when a theft of over $950 is involved. It is considered either a misdemeanor with a punishment of up to one year in a county jail or a felony punishable by 16 months to three years in prison.
First Time Felony Theft Charges vs. Subsequent Charges/Felony Theft Jail Time
California uses a “Three Strikes” system for felonies. Your first felony theft charge could mean serving up to three years in a state prison, as well as paying a $5,000 fine, if you’re convicted. This is a serious enough sentence. That’s a considerable amount of money for most people, and three years separated from friends and family can be a heavy punishment.
The sentence that you will face as the result of a felony theft conviction will depend on the value stolen and the sophistication of the theft, as well as the defendant’s background. The minimum sentence for felony theft in California is 16 months.
Because of the “Three Strikes” system, your first felony also counts as your first “strike.” After three felony charges — or three strikes — you will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years imprisonment in a state facility. The strikes system is designed to deter first-time offenders from repeating the same offense. After all, 25 years in prison is a punishment that anyone would want to avoid. That’s also why it can be so devastating to be wrongfully or unjustly charged with felony theft… and why it’s so important to have the right representation for felony theft charges.
Charged With Felony Theft? Get the Representation You Need
If you’ve been charged with a felony theft, the first thing to do is to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney to offer you the representation you need. Sal Ciulla of Sal Ciulla Law has over 35 years of experience handling theft cases, both as a prosecutor and now as a defense attorney. In order to achieve the best possible outcome, you need to go into court prepared. Contact Sal Ciulla Law today to set up a consultation.