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I. LEGAL DEFINITION

PC 487:  Grand Theft is the unlawful taking of the property of another when the value of the taken property exceeds $950 dollars.  However, you may be charged with Grand Theft – regardless of the value of the property taken – if the property taken is a firearm or an automobile, or if the property is taken from somebody’s person (E.g., pickpocketing).

In order to obtain a conviction for a violation of PC 487, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following:

  1. You took possession of property that belonged to somebody else;
  2. You did so without the owner’s consent;
  3. When you took possession of the property, you did so with the intent to keep the property permanently, or for such an extended period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property;
  4. You moved the property, no matter how little you moved it, or for how long you had possession of it;
  5. a) The property of the value was more than $950.00, or b) the property taken was a firearm or c) the property taken was an automobile, or d) the property taken was on the body of/in the clothing of/in a container held by that person.

The value of the property, formally known as “fair market value”, is the highest price the property would be reasonably sold for in the open market at the time, and in the general location of, the theft.

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Grand theft consists of stealing money/property worth more than $950, or a firearm, or a vehicle, or of stealing property from somebody’s person.  “Stealing” means taking the property without the owner’s consent, with the intent to keep it permanently (or for a prolonged period of time), and moving the property, no matter the distance or the time.

The value of the property is the highest price a reasonable person would have paid for the property at the time and place the property was taken.

Example

John is spending the weekend at the house of a friend of his.  When his friend leaves the house to get groceries, John walks into the garage to grab a soda from the fridge and notices in a corner of the garage his friend’s brand-new, top-of-the-line snowboard.  The retail price of the snowboard is $1,100.  Without telling his friend, John places the snowboard in his own car and covers it with a blanket.  John plans to use the snowboard during the upcoming ski season and put it back into his friend’s garage at some point in the spring.

Did John commit grand theft?

Yes.  John committed grand theft, whether he follows through with his plan or puts the snowboard back where he first saw it.  Why is that?  Because John, without his friend’s consent, moved the $1,100 snowboard (I.e., a value exceeding $950) from the garage into his own car.  When he did that, John had the intent to use the snowboard during the ski season.  Even though John was going to bring the snowboard back after the ski season is over, by keeping the snowboard during the winter months, John would deprive his friend of the enjoyment of the snowboard.

III. PENALTIES

Grand Theft is a “wobbler”, which means that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  When PC 487 is charged as a felony, a conviction may result in a sentence to county jail for a period between 16 months and three years.  However, Grand Theft of a firearm is a “strike”, and a conviction may result in a sentence to state prison for a period between 16 months and three years.  Whether the conviction is for a “simple felony” or a “strike, you would have to serve at least 50% of your sentence.  Additionally, under PC 12022.6, your sentence may be extended for up to four years if the value of the property you stole exceeds $65,000.  A conviction for PC 487 as a misdemeanor, can result in a sentence to County Jail for up to one year, and you would have to serve at least 50% of your sentence.  Whether you receive a jail sentence or a probation sentence, depends on many factors such as the specific facts of the case and your prior criminal record, if you have any.  Finally, keep in mind that Grand Theft is a crime of moral turpitude; a person convicted of PC 487, and who is not a U.S. citizen, may face harsh immigration-related consequences.

There are also some other important considerations to make:

  • If you burglarized a location and stole property worth over $950, the PC 487 charge would be added on top of the burglary charge.  Burglary is the act of entering a house, apartment, etc.; taking money or property is a separate and additional crime.
  • If you are charged with Grand Theft of a pet (because the value of the animal exceeds $950) and that pet was listed in a Domestic Violence Restraining Order that you were served with, you may be charged with one count of violating a court order, too.
  • If the police have reason to believe that the Grand Theft they arrested you for is part of two more thefts that have the same or a similar purpose, result, or methods of execution, the police may also request that the prosecution begin asset forfeiture proceedings against property that you own/possess and that that the police believe you acquired directly or indirectly through those thefts.

IV. DEFENSES

  1. Insufficient Evidence.  The most common defense used in criminal defense is that there simply isn’t enough evidence to convict you of the charge.  For example, there is no evidence that the value of the item(s) you are accused of having stolen exceeds $950.
  2. Mistake of Fact. In the case of a Grand Theft charge, perhaps the owner of the property that you are accused of having stolen forgot that he/she had agreed to loan you the item.  When you were arrested you didn’t have the opportunity to go through your texts and emails; however, after a thorough search of your records, you find the message in which the owner agreed to loan you the item.
  3. Violation of Your Rights.  This could happen in many ways, such as when the police recover the stolen property in the course of an unlawful search of your car or house.

V. CONCLUSION

Being arrested and possibly charged with Grand Theft can have devastating consequences on your reputation, both personal and professional may cost you a lot of money in fines and restitution and might cause you to spend some time in county jail or in state prison.  This is why it is crucial that you immediately contact our PC 487 attorneys if you have concerns that you may be investigated for Grand Theft.  If charges have not yet been filed, we will immediately contact the assigned investigators and prosecutors to assess if law enforcement has sufficient evidence to even file charges, so that we may minimize the risks to your reputation, finances, and freedom.  You, or your loved ones, cannot take a chance on such a serious charge.  Our Ontario PC 487 attorneys have successfully defended thousands of people charged with crimes throughout the entire Inland Empire. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorneys today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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