Ozols Law Firm takes theft crimes very seriously. We aggressively fight to get the charges dismissed. A theft crimes conviction will follow you around for life if not dealt with properly. Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which could negatively impact your employment options and immigration status. From the moment you hire us, we do everything possible to get the charges dropped or reduced. Call San Diego theft crimes attorney Alex Ozols today to discuss your case at (619) 288-8357.

Experienced Criminal Lawyer Handling Petty Theft, Grand Theft, Carjacking, Robbery, and Shoplifting Allegations

Attorney Alex Ozols has successfully handled many theft crimes cases. He will aggressively represent your interests and attack every part of the prosecution’s case against you. He will also work to get the charges dismissed and is prepared to go to trial if necessary. Contact Alex today to discuss your best legal options. We represent clients accused of any theft crime, including:

Prop 47 and Theft Crimes

In November 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which resulted in many non-violent crimes now being classified as misdemeanors. If you were previously convicted of certain theft crimes, you may be eligible to ask for redesignation and those serving time may be able to petition for resentencing.

Prior to Prop 47, the prosecutor had discretion to classify the following theft crimes as either a felony or misdemeanor (wobbler). Now they are treated as misdemeanors under Prop 47 (if the amount in question is not more than $950):

  • Forgery (Penal Code §473(b))
  • Use a bank card or check knowing there are insufficient funds in the account (Penal Code §476a(b))
  • Receiving or possessing property with knowledge that it was stolen (Penal Code §496)
  • Petty theft conviction with a prior conviction that resulted in a jail term for grand theft, petty theft, auto theft, theft from an elder, carjacking, burglary, possession of stolen property, or robbery (Penal Code §666(a))

California Theft Crime Laws

Theft crimes involve a wide range of crimes from shoplifting to grand theft. The penalties and fines usually depend on the severity of the crime. On one end of the spectrum, you have shoplifting and petty theft, which are usually charged as misdemeanors. On the other end, you have robbery and carjacking, which are typically result in felony charges. The following is a brief overview of the most common theft crimes. For more information, call Ozols Law Firm today to discuss your case.

Petty Theft (Penal Code 484)

Under California Penal Code 484, when the property stolen is:

  • Worth less than $950, and
  • Not considered a vehicle or a firearm

then you can be charged with petty theft. You do not want petty theft conviction on your record because it reflects poorly on your moral character. This could negatively impact your employment options.

Petty theft is punishable (Penal Code § 490) by:

  • Fine not exceeding $1,000, or
  • Imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or
  • Both

Pursuant to Penal Code § 490.1(a), petty theft can also be charged as an infraction, if the value of the item did not exceed $50. This is left to the discretion of the prosecutor and also depends on whether the accused has other theft related convictions.

This charge is often associated with shoplifting because the amounts involved in shoplifting are commonly under $950. As your attorney, Alex Ozols will challenge any evidence the prosecutor introduces against you to help achieve a non-guilty verdict.

Shoplifting (Penal Code 459.5)

Shoplifting is probably one of the most common criminal charges in San Diego. Under California Penal Code § 459.5, shoplifting is defined as:

  • …entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny (theft – see Penal Code § 490a) while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).

Shoplifting is punished as a misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously been convicted of a serious crime defined under California Penal Code §667(e)(2)(C)(iv).

Grand Theft (Penal Code 487)

California Penal Code §487 states that grand theft is committed when:

  • Property stolen is of a value exceeding $950,
  • Property is taken from the person of another,
  • Property taken is (1) an automobile or (2) a firearm

This is a felony but is also a wobbler, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Punishment for grand theft of a firearm (Penal Code § 489(a)) is “imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.”

In all other cases, the punishment for grand theft is “imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.” (Penal Code § 489(c).)

The district attorney always goes for the highest charges and grand theft is almost always charged as a felony. That means that there will be a preliminary hearing where it can be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code 487(d)(1))

Grand Theft Auto (“GTA”) is defined under California Penal Code § 487(d)(1). It states, in relevant part, that grand theft is committed when the property taken is…an automobile.

While this crime is technically a wobbler, it is almost always charged as a felony. The punishment for this is imprisonment in county jail for 16 months, or two or three years. (California Penal code 1170(h)(1).)

A closely related and less serious crime is known as “joyriding,” under Vehicle Code 10851. The difference between GTA and joyriding boils down to how long you intended to keep the car. If the prosecution believes that you intended to permanently keep the car, then you will be charged with GTA. If, however, your theft lawyer can successfully argue that you only intended to keep the car for short period of time, the prosecution might instead pursue the lesser charge of joyriding.

Embezzlement (Penal Code 503)

Embezzlement is defined as the “fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” (California Penal Code §503.)

A common scenario involving embezzlement is when you take money that has been entrusted to you from an employer. Unless it is seen or there is a direct paper trial, these cases are often hard to prove.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to use this lack of evidence to prevent the prosecution from proving their case. If you did commit the crime and there is solid evidence against you, we will attempt to negotiate a fair deal that may not require jail time.

Embezzlement is punished according to the value of the item stolen. (Penal Code § 514.) Therefore, it will be charged as grand theft if the value is greater than $950 and petty theft if less than $950. For more information on Embezzlement crimes and the possible defenses visit our embezzlement page.

Burglary (Penal Code 459)

Burglary is the breaking and entering of the dwelling or another with the intent to permanently deprive. (Cal. Penal Code §459.)

Breaking and Entering:

The could be the slightest break and the slightest entering. The term “breaking” is often commonly misinterpreted, this just means going over the property line of another where the you are not invited. Breaking is no longer an element in California under Penal Code 459. The term “entering” means entering a space of another.


California case law has shown that a dwelling can be anywhere where one sleeps. From a home to a hospital bed to an RV, this is defined broadly.

Intent to permanently deprive:

This element is often the hardest to prove when prosecuting a theft crime. When one is charged with a crime and made no statements to police, no one knows what their intent was at the time of the alleged incident. Their intent could have been a couple things. It could have been to:

    • return the good
    • to take the good they believed was theirs
    • actual confusion that the good were theirs

This is an area that can be challenged by an experienced San Diego theft crimes attorney.

To convict you of burglary, the prosecutor has to prove to a jury that:

      • You were there,
      • That you entered in somewhere,
      • That you took good that’s didn’t belong to you, and
      • That you intended to kept them.

This is a high standard and can always be challenged be a qualified attorney.

Robbery (Penal Code 211)

Robbery is taking something from a person and either used force or threatened to use force. In order to be convicted of a robbery in California (California Penal Code 211), certain elements must be met. The defendant:

      • Must have taken property,
      • Within their immediate presence,
      • The property was taken against the person’s will,
      • The perpetrator used fear or force to take the property, and
      • They intended to permanently deprive the owner of his property

Like theft, robbery involves the taking of property. The critical distinction is that in the case of robbery it involves taking something from a person with the use or threat of force. Given that whether force was actually threatened is subjective, it is helpful to have a qualified attorney to review your case.

Carjacking (Penal Code 215)

Carjacking is a serious crime and requires a strong defense. To be convicted of carjacking under California Penal Code § 215, you must have:

  • Taken someone’s vehicle,
  • From their immediate possession,
  • Against their will,
  • With the intent to permanently deprive them of the vehicle
  • Accomplished my means of force or fear

Unlike less serious theft crimes, carjacking is a felony and if convicted you face up to three, five, or nine years in prison.

The common defenses to carjacking include:

  • Consent (the car was not taken against the owner’s will),
  • Lack of force or fear, and
  • No intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle

It is important to remember that the intent must have been formed before or during the commission of the crime. If not, then you cannot be found guilty of carjacking.

Larceny (Penal Code 490a)

Clients often ask us what is the difference between larceny and theft. California Penal Code 490a states that larceny, embezzlement, or stealing shall be read and interpreted as “theft.” Therefore, for the purposes of the penal code it is the same thing.

Hire An Experienced San Diego Theft Crimes Lawyer

If you have been charged with theft, call San Diego theft crimes attorney Alex Ozols for a free consultation at (619) 288-8357.

Our goal is to create the best legal strategy for you and get you the non-guilty verdict you deserve. We represent clients throughout San Diego County including El Cajon, Oceanside, Escondido, Vista, Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and Chula Vista.