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California Quick Guide: Petty Theft Laws

Posted by attorney Eloy Trujillo

In order to be convicted of Petty Theft, the District Attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused took possession of property owned by someone else, the individual took the property without the owner’s consent; and when the person took the property he or she intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property, and that the individual moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief. For petty theft, the property taken can be of any value, no matter how slight. (Calcrim 1800.)

In California, "petty theft" is a "priorable" offense. If a defendant has three or more prior petty theft, grand theft, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or felony receiving stolen property convictions, the defendant can be prosecuted under Penal Code section 666 for petty theft with priors. The District Attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the additional allegation that the defendant has been convicted of a theft offense before and served a term in a penal institution as a result of that conviction. (Calcrim 1850.)

A penal institution includes a city jail, county jail, state prison, any facility, camp, hospital, or institution operated to confine, treat, employ, train, and discipline persons in the legal custody of the Department of Corrections, federal prison, or other institution. (Calcrim 1850.)

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