Theft by false pretenses is covered under California Penal Code Section 532. In basic terms, it's when someone is convinced to voluntarily give up of something of value based on false or fraudulent representation. In other words, it's lying or making false promises to fool someone to give them their property.
Under California law, it's a type of theft crime, but is achieved through deception rather than any type of physical force.
In fact, if you are criminally charged with this type of theft offense in Los Angeles County, you can face the same type of legal penalties as any individual who was charged with more commonly known forms of theft cases, such as robbery or burglary.
The legal punishment for this type of theft offense will typically depend on the total value of the items that was taken. The main legal issue often argued under a theft by false pretense charge is whether you made a false representation of a fact in order to defraud another person, or whether the allegation was sufficiently corroborated.
It's important to note that a Los Angeles County prosecutor can still charge you with theft by false pretenses if they believe you recklessly misrepresented something without any justification, or believe you intentionally omitted a fact when you were obligated to do so. A “false pretense” is any act or word, where the specific purpose is to deceive someone.
You can make a false pretense if you intentionally deceive someone by:
- (1) providing information you know is false;
- (2) make a promise you have no intention of keeping;
- (3) don't give information you are obligated to provide, and;
- (4) make a reckless misrepresentation.
Theft by false pretenses is closely related to many California white collar crimes dealing with fraud offenses. These include:
- unemployment insurance fraud,
- real-estate fraud,
- internet fraud,
- false impersonation,
- check fraud,
- credit card fraud, and
In order for an LA County prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they have to be able to prove the key element of the crime, which is that you knowingly and intentionally deceived the alleged victim through some type of misrepresentation. They will normally attempt to prove you lied about a material fact in order to obtain property from the owner.
If you are facing allegations of theft by false pretense, you would be wise to exercise your legal right to remain silent. In most cases, a police detective will attempt to get statements from you about the case.
You should be polite, but decline to make any statements without first consulting with an attorney.
It's important to understand that you could make incriminating statements without realizing it. These statements could be used against you later in court. The police detective who called you is well paid to build a criminal case and make arrest. That's what they do. In spite of their politeness, don't be fooled, they are not your friend.
Instead, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately. Our attorneys will closely examine the details of the accusation in order to start preparing an effective defense strategy.
Now that we have discussed a basic overview of theft by false pretenses above, let's now take a closer look at the legal definition, legal punishments, and potential legal defenses below.
California Penal Code Section 532 – Theft by False Pretense
Under California Penal Code Section 532, the legal definition of theft by false pretenses states:
- Every person who knowingly and by design, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds another person of money, labor, property, whether real or personal, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of their wealth or mercantile character, and by thus imposing upon any person obtains credit and fraudulently gets possession of money or property, obtains labor of another is guilty of theft by false pretenses and punishable in the same extent as for larceny of the money or property so obtained.
In simple language, this legal definition means you can be charged with theft by false pretenses for lying to persuade someone to give them your property or anything that has value.
Again, In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor has to be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, specific elements of the crimes. These elements include:
- You knowingly and intentionally deceived someone by a false pretense;
- Your intent was to persuade them to give you their property;
- The owner let you have possession of their property because they relied on the false representation or pretense;
- When you received their property, you had the intent to deprive the owner for an extended period of time or permanently.
A “false pretense” covers a wide array of conduct, but it's legally defined as any act, word, symbol, or token, where the intent purpose is to deceive. This includes making reckless statements without having any information to justify its true, but intent is the key factor in criminal prosecution of theft by false pretenses.
Another key factor for the prosecutor to prove is the reliance of the victim who gave up their property because they believed your false statements were true. This means the victim must have actually given you their property because they relied on your misrepresentation.
Additionally, a theft by false pretenses requires that you obtained ownership of the victim's property, rather than just possession. Call a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at our law firm for additional information and to review the details of your case.
Legal Penalties for a Theft by False Pretense Conviction
If you are convicted of theft by false pretenses in violation of California Penal Code Section 532, the legal penalties will depend on the amount of money or property taken. If the total value of property is $950 or less, it's considered petty theft, which is a misdemeanor offense that can carry a sentence of up to 6 months in the county jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both.
If the total value of the property is more than $950, you will be charged with grand theft, which can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. See related: Grand Theft Firearm.
If convicted of a felony, the legal penalties can include up to 3 years in a California state prison.
Legal Defenses Against Theft by False Pretense Charges
An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP can use a variety of legal defense strategies, based on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. These legal defenses include:
- There was no intent to deceive – One of the key elements a prosecutor has to prove includes that you intentionally deceived another person. This element of the crime can be the most difficult to prove. Our criminal lawyers may be able to argue that you actually believed what you were saying was true and had no intent to deceive. We could argue you were planning on keeping your promise or you made an honest mistake, but at no time did you plan to deceive the victim. Keep in mind the prosecutor has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If our attorneys can create any reasonable doubt that you intended to deceive, you can't be convicted of theft by false pretense.
- There was a lack of reliance – Another key element of the crime discussed above is that the victim relied on your false information to give you their property. This can also be difficult to prove as it deals with the issue of motive. Our criminal attorneys may be able to argue the alleged victim did not rely your statements you gave them that lead to their decision.
Keep in mind that every case of theft by false pretenses in Los Angles County is unique. This means there will be different facts and circumstances that need to be thoroughly examined in order to develop an effective defense strategy.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a family member are facing misdemeanor of felony charges of theft by false pretenses under Penal Code 532, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately.
Remain silent and do not talk to the police. Our lawyers need to review your case in order to determine your best legal options moving forward.
We have a track record of success in all type of theft related cases. We offer a free immediate response.
Call our law firm at 877-781-1570.