Theft and Embezzlement
Los Angeles Theft Defense Lawyers
Theft charges can leave someone subject to fines, jail time or both. Before pleading guilty, defendants need to remember that there are several viable defenses that might obtain either acquittal or a plea deal. It’s imperative to be working with a theft defense lawyer who understands the challenges the prosecution faces in attempting to secure a conviction.
A Los Angeles-area theft defense attorney from our offices can show you legal options you might not realize you have. Call today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online.
Let’s take a brief step back and make sure we differentiate theft from robbery and burglary. These terms can be used interchangeably in casual conversation, but there are all distinct offenses, and those distinctions have legal implications.
When a person commits theft they steal property, but they do not use force or lead the victim to believe force will be used. The fact property was stolen makes theft a more serious crime than burglary, which simply means illegally entering somewhere with the intent of stealing. But the fact no force is used in a theft case makes it less severe than robbery, which presumes the use or the threat of force.
Furthermore, theft itself is broken into two categories–petty theft and grand theft. In the state of California, the dividing line between the two is priced at $950. If the value of what was stolen exceeds that figure, it’s grand theft. Otherwise, it’s petty theft.
Penalties for Theft in California
Either grand theft or petty theft can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. Most petty theft cases fall into the latter category. This carries the potential of six months in a county jail and up to a $1,000 in fines.
Grand theft, by the fact it involves taking more valuable property ,is naturally more likely to result in felony charges. Under these circumstances, the charged individual is facing up three years in prison and fines that can go as high as $10,000.
Furthermore, this presumes that the theft crime stood on its own–i.e., that it was not a part of any other criminal activity. Embezzlement of thousands of dollars of company money is grand theft. If that money was then used on activity related to narcotics, the penalties can be even higher. Even if the crime does stand on its own, the person charged might have known criminal associates that authorities suspect of bigger violations.
This dynamic can work in two possible ways–on the one hand, the person charged with theft might face a range of charges as an accomplice to the surrounding crimes. Or these surrounding crimes could make prosecutors willing to offer plea bargains in exchange for information.
The better the theft legal defense strategy is, the more options the defendant may end up having.
One of Shevin Law Group’s Los Angeles-area theft defense lawyers will help you craft the approach that’s best for your situation. Call today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online.
Specific Intent: A person must not only have stolen the property in question, but they must also have intended to steal it. Let’s say a person is shopping. They look at jewelry admiringly and briefly decide to try it on. Their friends appreciate how they look, so the jewelry is kept on a little longer than it otherwise might. They walked further into the store. The defendant put the jewelry into a handbag ,fully intending to return it. Instead, they accidentally walked out, and security alarms were triggered at the front door.
There was no intent to steal the jewelry. If a defendant has a clean record, this line of defense is more likely to succeed.
Lack of Asportation: Asportation is a legal term that requires three things–that the property be separated from its rightful owner, that it be in complete possession of the person charged with the crime and that the property be moved.
If asportation cannot be established, this still might be a burglary case–perhaps there was intent to commit theft, but the property was never possessed by the person charged. An example might be the person charged with embezzling at work. Did the money ever get to their bank account (or its intended location)? If not, they might be defended on the grounds that asportation has not been proven by the prosecutor.
Claim of Rightful Ownership: You can’t be guilty of stealing something that’s already yours. If you loaned your lawnmower to a neighbor, got frustrated waiting for it to be returned and went into their garage to get it, you aren’t guilty of theft. There might be a trespassing issue, but it’s not theft.
What’s more, even if the accused person simply thought the property belonged to them, that is a valid defense. Now, this belief has to be proven. Simply telling the court “I thought it was mine”, won’t be sufficient. But what if there are texts and emails showing someone clearly believes a piece of property is theirs? What if witnesses come forward to say that this person genuinely believed the property belonged to them? Even if that belief is considered unreasonable, it’s a valid defense to theft if sincerely held and provable.
What’s Not a Defense: Let’s assume that someone did steal a piece of property and that all the criteria for guilt noted above are provable beyond a reasonable doubt. But the person charged returned the item in question. Strictly speaking, this cannot be used as a defense.
Now, that doesn’t mean returning it isn’t worthwhile or that it might not have some impact. A judge may consider it at sentencing. The District Attorney may take it into account when deciding whether to file charges in the first place. A demonstration of good will never hurts. But it is not, in the strictest legal sense, a defense against the charge of theft .
Shevin Law Group has nearly thirty years of experience handling cases like these. Our attorneys understand what defenses are viable and what’s needed to make them work. We fight hard for our clients, and we counsel them at every step of the way. If you’re facing theft charges, you may have more options than you realize.
Call us today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation.
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