Grand Theft: California Penal Code Section 487 PC

California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand Theft criminal statute makes it a crime for an individual to take the money, personal property, real property, or labor of another person that has a value that exceeds $950. Said differently, any person who steals an automobile, gun, or any property that has a value that exceeds $950 is guilty of grand theft in the State of California.

If you have been charged with grand theft under Penal Code Section 487 PC, you should immediately contact an experienced Los Angeles Theft Attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you from going to prison.

California law punishes those convicted of theft harshly. Even a first-time grand theft offense can result in a maximum prison sentence of up to three years. So, if you have been charged with Grand Theft in California, you should immediately contact a theft defense lawyer to represent you to mitigate the potential consequences that you face. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Text of Grand Theft Criminal Statute – Penal Code Section 487

According to California Penal Code Section 487 PC, “Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), or when the property takes is an automobile or a firearm.”

In a nutshell, a person can be charged with grand theft is one of the three following situations:

  • He steals property that is worth more than $950
  • He steals a firearm
  • He steals an automobile

Note: For an individual to be convicted of grand theft, he need not steal one item of property that is worth more than $950, the aggregate amount of stolen property suffices. For example, if a person walks into Nordstrom’s and steals a pair of shoes valued at $400, a bottle of perfume valued at $500, and a watch valued at $300, the aggregate amount of items stolen $1200 can be used to satisfy the value of the stolen property.

Proving an Individual Guilty of Committing Grand Theft Under CPC 487

1) Grand Theft by Larceny

For the prosecution to convict an individual of grand theft by larceny under Penal Code 487 PC, it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove even one element, it will not be able to convict the defendant of grand theft.

The prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant took the property of another person, gun, or automobile
  • The defendant took the property without the owner’s consent
  • The defendant had the intent to permanently deprive the property owner of his property, and
  • The value of the property taken exceeds $950 (firearms and automobile do not need to exceed this amount)
  • The defendant moved the property (the slightest movement suffices)

2) Grand Theft by False Pretenses

For the prosecution to convict an individual of grand theft by false pretenses, it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant took the property of another person
  • The defendant did so by knowingly and intentionally deceiving the victim by making false statements (telling them something that is not true)
  • The defendant had the intent to deceive the victim to take his property
  • The victim relied on the defendant’s misleading or false statements, and
  • The defendant took possession of the property at issue, and
  • The property at issue is valued at above $950

3) Grand Theft by Trick

For the prosecution to convict an individual of grand theft by trick, it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant took another person’s property
  • The defendant used fraud or deceit to get the victim to hand over his property,
  • The defendant took possession of the property while intending to permanently keep the property,
  • The defendant kept the property for a period of time, and
  • The property owner did not intend to transfer ownership (title) of the property to the defendant, and
  • The property at issue is valued at over $950

The difference between grand theft by false pretenses and larceny by trick is that in a larceny by trick situation, the defendant gains possession and only possession of the property at hand. However, larceny by trick applies to a situation where the defendant gains the property but not the title to the property by committing deceit or fraud, meaning there is no carrying away requirement.

4) Theft by Embezzlement

For the prosecution to convict an individual of grand theft by embezzlement, it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An owner of property entrusted the defendant with his property
  • The defendant was in a position of trust with regards to the property
  • The defendant took or used the property to benefit himself
  • The defendant had the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the property owner of his property, and
  • The property involved was over $950

Examples of Grand Theft

Grand Theft by Larceny

John has just purchased the New 2020 MacBook Pro. His friend Adam from college comes over to his home and steals john’s MacBook Pro by placing it in his backpack and taking it to his home. Adam can be charged with grand theft by larceny because he intended to permanently deprive John of his MacBook Pro and he carried it away from John’s home.

Grand Theft by False Pretenses

Noel goes to a computer store to buy a new camera to shoot videos for his vlog. Noel buys a camera and promises the store owner to make monthly payments on the camera. At the time Noel made the promise, he had no intent to make payments on the camera. Noel can be charged with grand theft by false pretenses because he falsely promised the store owner that he would make payments on the camera even though he never intended on paying it off. As such, the prosecution will likely be able to convict him of grand theft by false pretenses.

Grand Theft by Trick

John has just purchased a new Mercedes. After looking over the paint of his vehicle, he notices a discolored portion. John is extremely busy and so he asks his friend Tim to take his car to the dealership to have it repaired. Tim tells John that he will take the car to get it repaired. Instead, Tim takes the car and uses it for a couple of months until law enforcement finally catches up to him and catches him driving the stolen car. In this case, Tim can be convicted of grand theft by trick because he tricked John into giving him his car to get it repaired but did not transfer the title of the car to Tim.

Grand Theft by Embezzlement

Tim is the manager of an investment firm. Unbeknownst to his investors, he takes out $100k worth of their money to invest in his own venture. He only intended to borrow the money for a couple of months, at which point he would repay all of the money.  Tim would be surprised that the acting of taking the money entrusted to him by clients, even though temporary, can result in him being charged with and convicted of grand theft by embezzlement because there was a trust relationship between him and his clients and he breached that trust by taking their money and using it for purposes other than the purpose promised to his clients.

Penalties for a Grand Theft Conviction

Grand theft is a wobbler, meaning the prosecution has the discretion to charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor. So, the penalties vary depending on whether a person is convicted of felony grand theft or misdemeanor grand theft. Usually, whether the prosecution charges an individual with misdemeanor grand theft or felony grand theft depends on the value of the property stolen and the defendant’s criminal history. Usually, a first-time grand theft offense is charged as a misdemeanor, with subsequent charges being filed as felonies.

Misdemeanor Grand Theft

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor offense
  • Up to 12 months in county jail
  • Payment of a fine of up to $1000
  • Placement on summary informal probation

Felony Grand Theft

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • Sixteen months, two years, or three imprisonments in county jail
  • Placement on formal felony probation
  • Payment of costly court fees and fines

Note: If the property underlying your grand theft conviction exceeds $65,000, the prosecution can add additional years to your prison sentence. Also, if the property stolen has a value that exceeds $200,000, the prosecution can add an additional two years to your sentence. If the underlying property has a value that exceeds $3.2 million, the prosecution can add an additional four years to the defendant’s jail sentence.

Grand Theft Charge Defenses

There are a number of defenses that your attorney can use to defend you if you have been charged with either misdemeanor grand theft or felony grand theft. Here are some of the defenses that may be available to you:

  • The defendant did not have the intent to steal or permanently deprive the property owner of his property
  • The defendant had a reasonable belief that he was reclaiming property that belonged to him
  • The defendant had the consent of the property owner to take the property
  • The defendant is a victim of mistaken identity
  • The defendant is being falsely accused of grand theft

Petty Theft vs Grand Theft

Petty theft is different from grand theft in that the property taken in petty theft cases usually has a value of $950 or less. Grand theft charges are usually brought if the value of the property at issue has a value greater than $950. Also, grand theft charges are always brought against defendants who commit auto theft and theft of firearms.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with grand theft in Los Angeles or elsewhere in the State of California, you should immediately contact an experienced Los Angeles Theft Defense Attorney at The H Law Group to represent you and defend you so that you don’t go to prison for a very long period of time. Our attorneys have handled countless theft cases, so they have the knowledge and experience necessary to mitigate the potential consequences that you face. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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