Petty theft with prior charges is covered under California Penal Code Section 666. It's a common misconception that shoplifting can't lead to any serious legal consequences. The word “petty” seems to imply something very minor that would typically not even get much attention from police or prosecutors who are more focused on serious crimes.
Petty theft can become a serious crime with harsh life-altering legal consequences. Under this law, a minor misdemeanor crime of petty theft can be elevated to a felony crime and incarceration in a California state prison. What exactly is petty theft?
Under California Penal Code Section 484, it's when you commit the crime of theft when the property was valued at $950 or less. In order to be convicted of petty theft with a prior, you would have to have a prior conviction. In other words, PC 666 targets repeat offenders.
It means you commit a petty theft crime and already have on your criminal record a conviction for a theft crime, with jail time, and a conviction for various other theft crimes, such as burglary, grand theft, and robbery, among others.
A common example in Los Angeles County includes a situation where someone was just released from the county jail for residential burglary and finds it difficult to find employment or a place to live. They don't have any money or means of support for basic needs.
They enter a store and shoplift food and clothes. As they exit the store, they are detained by security and police are called. When they arrive, police cite him for a petty theft offense. When Los Angeles County prosecutors get involved, they notice his prior conviction for burglary and his new arrest for petty theft and file charges against them for petty theft with a prior, under California Penal Code Section 666.
If you have been accused of petty theft with a prior, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. Our attorneys will review the details in order to determine an effective strategy to defend you. Now that we have covered a general overview of petty theft with a prior, let's take a closer look at the legal definition, penalties, and defenses below.
Legal Definition of Petty Theft with a Prior
California Penal Code Section 666 describes petty theft with a prior as follows:
Every person who has been convicted of three or more times of petty theft, grand theft, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or a felony violation resulting in serving time in jail is convicted of petty theft.
This description above means that in order to be sentenced to legal penalties for petty theft with a prior, you must have already been convicted of California petty theft under Penal Code Sections 484 and 488.
As stated above, it's important to understand the crime of petty theft is unlawfully taking another person's property valued at $950 or less. Typically, petty theft charges are the result of shoplifting, but could also involve theft by false pretenses.
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you of petty theft with a prior, under California Penal Code Section 666, they must be able to prove the following:
- You have a prior conviction of a qualifying theft crime and another prior conviction of certain crimes making you eligible for a sentence enhancement
- You served time in county jail or state prison for the convictions
It's important to note that just being charged with a crime is not sufficient. You must have been convicted. The prior theft crime convictions that can result in increased legal penalties under Penal Code 666 include the following:
California Penal Code Section 484 – Petty Theft California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand Theft California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) – Grand Theft Auto California Penal Code Section 459 – Burglary California Penal Code Section 215 – Carjacking California Penal Code Section 211 – Robbery California Penal Code Section 496 – Receiving Stolen Property
Another important note is that just having a prior theft crime conviction listed above will not make you eligible for harsher sentencing under California Penal Code Section 666. In order to be sentenced under the petty theft with a prior law, you need to either:
- Have 3 or more convictions of the theft crimes above, or;
- Have 1 conviction of a theft crime above, and either;
- A sex crime conviction requiring registration under California Penal Code Section 290, or;
- A prior conviction for various California serious or violent felony crimes
The California serious or violent felony crimes that would make you eligible for an enhancement for petty theft with a prior conviction include any type of sexual related offense using force or threats, sex crimes against children, murder, attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or any type of serious offense that is punishable by a sentence of life in prison or death.
If you need additional information, call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our office.
Legal Penalties for Petty Theft with a Prior
Under California Penal Code Section 666, petty theft with a prior conviction is a “wobbler.” This means the Los Angeles County prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.
This decision will depend on the facts of your case and your criminal history. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor case of petty theft with a prior, you could be sentenced to up to 1 year in county jail. If you are convicted of a felony case, you could be sentenced to up to 3 years in a California state prison.
Legal Defenses for Petty Theft with a Prior
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use a wide range of legal defenses to assist you in avoiding the harsh legal penalties associated with a petty theft with a prior conviction. The most common legal defenses include the following:
Defending current petty theft charge – In some cases, our lawyers might be able to successfully challenge your most recent case of petty theft. For example, if your case involved an allegation of shoplifting, we might be able to prove you had no intent to steal, rather it was an honest mistake or you reasonably believed you had permission to take the item. If successful, you can't be convicted of petty theft or petty theft with a prior.
False accusation – In certain situations, our criminal lawyers may be able to show you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. For example, you were with a friend who committed shoplifting. You had no idea your friend was stealing and did not participate in the crime. However, you were arrested along with your friend as an accomplice.
Contact our Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys
If you have been accused of petty theft with a prior, in violation of California Penal Code Section 666, you need to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP right away. Don't make the mistake of believing your petty theft charges are a minor issue.
A conviction can lead to life-altering consequences. Our law firm has a history of success in a all types of theft related crimes and will aggressively fight for the best possible outcome on your case. Contact us at 877-781-1570.