Theft and Fraud

Theft is a common charge that encompasses several factors. In general, theft involves allegations that an individual knowingly and intentionally acquired property owned by another person. Individuals charged with these crimes can face fines or long prison sentences for a robbery conviction depending on the value of the property stolen or fraud committed.

A conviction on your record could affect you for years to come. In our experience, we know that many times these cases are the result of an isolated bad decision by otherwise law-abiding people. They need a lawyer to help them. Whether you are charged with misdemeanor petty theft or felony robbery, you are entitled to an attorney working for you.

The Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor emphasizes rigorous investigation and strategic case building in an effort to win favorable outcomes for clients facing charges such as:

    • Petty Theft (Penal Code 484) Under California law, petty theft involves stolen items worth less than $950. This charge is often applied to shoplifting. Petty theft is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, in addition to civil penalties, though a theft attorney may be able to reduce this significantly or get the charge dismissed, particularly if this is a first-time offense. This charge only applies to items taken without the use of a force. Taking anything of any value by force or threat of force is considered grand theft or robbery.
    • Grand Theft (Penal Code 487) Grand theft is the charge authorities file when the item taken is worth $950 or more. This can include anything from embezzling funds to stealing expensive items like electronics, collectibles or jewelry. Depending on the specifics of the case, the charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
    • Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code 487d1 PC) When the property taken is an automobile, it is referred to as grand theft auto. California law requires the vehicle be worth more than $400. The charge is often a felony but can be considered a misdemeanor at the discretion of authorities if the person has no criminal record. Felony grand theft auto carries a sentence of 16 months to 3 years in state prison, followed by parole. Related offenses include:
      • Carjacking (Penal Code Section 215 PC)
      • Grand Theft (Penal Code Section 487 PC)
      • Joyriding (Vehicle Code Section 10851 PC)
    • Robbery (Penal Code 211) Robbery is defined as the taking of property by force or threat of force. Robbery is considered a violent felony, resulting in the application of the Three Strikes law. Robbery can carry a sentence of up to nine years in prison, though the sentence can double if a firearm is used in the robbery. The severe nature of this charge makes it essential that you have a lawyer working on your defense. Robbery with a deadly weapon is considered armed robbery. If done via physical force instead of a weapon, it’s called a “strong arm” robbery.
    • Burglary (Penal Code 459) Despite common perception, a person does not have to steal anything to face a burglary charge. California defines burglary as unlawfully entering a dwelling or other place where they have no right to be with the intent to steal or commit any felony (like assault, rape, etc.) Burglary can carry a sentence of up to six years in prison if the dwelling burglarized is a home. Otherwise, the maximum sentence is a year in the county jail.
    • Extortion (Penal Code 523) California extortion law is broad, but generally speaking, extortion by definition is committed when a person coerces someone into handing over property, money or services they otherwise would not. Typically, extortion is associated with threats of physical violence. The crime is charged as a felony. Extortion is a serious crime and could result in sentencing that can range from four to 35 years behind bars if a person is convicted.
    • Fraud (Penal Code 484) Known as a “wobbler,” the details of each specific fraud case are what determines if the charge will be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. Common types of fraud crimes include identity theft, forgery, check fraud, insurance fraud, and Medicaid fraud. Generally speaking, there are two ways to define California criminal fraud law: either a person has acted in a way that results in an undeserved benefit to themselves, or in a way that causes harm or loss to another.
    • Receiving Stolen Property (Penal Code 496) If receiving stolen property under Penal Code 496, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the property. An amount less than $950 is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If convicted of a felony, the sentencing can result in up to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

All of These Cases Call for a A Theft Attorney

If you are convicted of any of these crimes, you will have a criminal record that may prevent you from advancing in your education, your career, or even jeopardize your relationship with family. Potential employers can legally ask you about your criminal record.

Criminal statutes in California are far more complicated than the descriptions above. The charge and its severity may depend on nature of the object taken or other factors. The value of the object is often a debatable subject. An experienced theft lawyer knows how to make these arguments.

Theft Defenses

In order to convict you, the district attorney’s office must prove several items beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, in a grand theft auto case, prosecutors must prove:

  • You took or drove the vehicle.
  • You do not own the vehicle.
  • You did not have the owner’s permission to take it.
  • Your intent was to deprive the owner of the vehicle.

If you are charged with theft, there are several ways your attorney can go about defending your case.

Your attorney may argue that ownership cannot be proven. It’s also possible to contest the allegation that you intended to deprive the person of his or her property. For example: perhaps you took the car on a quick trip to the store and intended on returning it before the owner knew it was gone.

Every defense is case-specific. We must fully understand the specific factors and details of every case we handle so we can build the best possible defense for our clients.

What is Fraud in California?

Fraud (Penal Code 484) is usually referred to as a “white collar crime,” and consists of several crimes including:

    • Forgery and Identity Theft This includes Internet fraud; forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public seal; forging or counterfeiting an ID or driver’s license; and falsely impersonating someone.
    • Insurance Fraud This includes auto insurance fraud, healthcare insurance fraud, Medi-Cal insurance fraud, unemployment insurance fraud, worker’s compensation fraud, and welfare fraud.
    • Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud This includes foreclosure fraud, lending schemes, property flipping, forging a deed, rent skimming, straw buying, and phantom help schemes.
    • Generic Financial Fraud Includes credit card fraud, check fraud, and securities fraud.
    • Fraud Involving the Elderly This area of California law deals with senior fraud and nursing home fraud.
    • Other Fraud Mail fraud, handicapped parking, and vehicle registration sticker fraud are other forms of fraud in California.

What are the Penalties if a Person is Convicted of Fraud in California?

Beside carrying a potentially long prison term and/or heavy fines, many California fraud crimes are what are called “wobbler offenses,” meaning they can either be charged as felonies or misdemeanors based on the defendant’s criminal history and the specific facts of the case. Other fraud offenses are also automatic felonies. Many other fraud offenses are also federal crimes. Still, other fraud offenses can lead to the revocation and denial of a number of state professional licenses. Moreover, most fraud offenses are also viewed as offenses consisting of moral turpitude. A fraud conviction could undermine your credibility if testifying in court and could subject both legal and undocumented immigrants to detention and deportation.

Your attorney may argue that ownership cannot be proven. It’s also possible to contest the allegation that you intended to deprive the person of his or her property. For example: perhaps you took the car on a quick trip to the store and intended on returning it before the owner knew it was gone.

Additionally, the government may, and usually does, seize any assets involved in the fraudulent activity. This includes money, land, real estate, artwork, vehicles, and jewelry.

What are the Defenses for Fraud in California?

    • No fraudulent intent. Fraud can only be charged when there is an intent to defraud. If defrauding someone was not your objective, your defense attorney will help you argue accordingly. For example, when a defendant is charged with check fraud, if the defendant believed that he had enough money to cover the check, he cannot be found guilty of check fraud.
    • Mistaken Identity. Mistaken identity is a useful defense for fraud. There are two situations where an attorney can help you argue mistaken identity. In one case, you may be the victim of mistaken eye-witness identification. In the second case, you may be mistakenly identified by assumption. For example, you work at a nursing home in the accounting department and are charged with theft for funds that you did not take. However, since you work in accounting, it is assumed that you took it.
    • Entrapment. Entrapment is not easy to prove in California. Under California law, it is not sufficient for undercover police to provide a suspect with an opportunity to commit a crime. To rise to the level of entrapment, police had to coerce an individual to perpetrate a crime that he or she would not have otherwise perpetrated. This can often be very difficult to prove.