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2nd offense petty theft, need help please, will i go to jail, how much is the fine?

Anaheim, CA |

when i was 16 i was charged with petty theft for taking a pair of sunglasses from a dept. store as a teenage dare. i paid the fines and finished the diversion program. i am now 19 years old and a was recntly arrested again for petty theft from my job. a customer bought a snack the total was 3.58, i new they price off the top of my head so i told him the price without ringing it up on the register. the man paid quickly with exact change and walked away, since i had not rung it up i just pocketed the change and my employer fount out, i was arrested on the spot and given a citation with a court date. when questioned about it i had admitted to doing it before. i was charged with petty theft, would this be considered my 2nd offense since my last one was as a minor? what will be the punishment?

another issue i was needing advice on was they only have actual evidence of the $3.58 taken but tho i admitted to having done it before a few times can they charge me for the previous times too and make the total greater or would the 3.58 be all they could prosecute on? does it make the punishment greater or is there no difference? i understand petty theft is under $400 but in total from previously taking cash in small amounts over time it could possible add up to over $400, i worked there for 3 years, just wondering if they can at all charge me for more than the 3.58... please any advice would really help me. another note, could this be charged as grand theft since it might have been over $400 taken? the citation i received says "petty theft" is that the official decision or can it chnage to grand theft if they review other evidence? this is all very confusing for me.

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Attorney answers 2


Fortunately, your juvenile offense doesn't count as a "conviction," so you are not facing a felony charge for petty theft. A petty theft with a prior conviction can be charged as a felony, if the person served jail time on the prior conviction.

Since the theft was under $50, the District Attorney may decide to charge you with an infraction, which does not carry jail time.

If the District Attorney decides to pursue the case as a misdemeanor, you could be facing as much as six months in jail. However, first offenders rarely get the maximum, especially when the theft was so small. In some cases, the judge will impose one day in jail -- just to make sure the offense qualifies as a "prior" to turn any future petty theft into a felony -- but you just report to the Sheriff's Department for a "book and release," where you are photographed, fingerprinted and released after a couple of hours.

Of course, every case is different, and nobody can predict the outcome of your case without a complete review of all of the evidence. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer to represent you, you are entitled to one at government expense (for a misdemeanor; if it's an infraction, you have to hire a lawyer or represent yourself) and the judge will appoint the Public Defender when you go to court.

Please understand that this is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website (and you shouldn't provide too much specific information about your legal matter on a public forum like this, anyway). You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information.


Even if you hadn't done a diversion program, a juvenile case isn't a "conviction" - it's technically an "adjudication." Either way - since you complete the diversion program, it's not a prior.

Even with the low dollar amount, in Orange County, they typically file the misdemeanor against you, rather than the infraction. With the prior incident, even though it was as a juvenile and was eventually dismissed, it will definitely make the case lean toward filing as a misdemeanor as well.

The goal for you is to avoid an adult conviction for theft it at all possible. There can be factual as well as legal defenses to the charges, but it depends on the details. What can happen also depends on the details as set forth in the police report and what your attorney is able to work out with the prosecutor.

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