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Petty Theft Laws (PC 484-488/490.1) in California

California Penal Code 484-488/490.1: Petty Theft

Legal Definition: You took property
or money from another person or business with the intent to never return the
property or money. The value of the property must be $950 or less to be Petty

What does this mean?

This is a straightforward charge,
with common examples being shoplifting from a store, going into a store with
empty plastic bags, filling them with items, and either leaving the store with
those items or attempting to return items you never bought. You must also do
this without the consent of the owner. This is why it is not a crime or a Petty
Theft if someone loans you an item, because you have their consent to use that
item. Property can be any tangible item like clothing, books, cells phones, or
even money.

It is also useful if you do not
intend to never return the item. Same example of someone trying on clothes at a
store, or carrying around the item in the store; if they intend to pay for the
item, or leave the item at the store, it is not a Petty Theft. The charge
becomes Grand Theft if the value of the item is over
$950. However, for Petty Theft, the item’s value is not important necessarily
so long as it has some value to it. When petty theft is committed at a
commercial store with the value of the item being under fifty dollars, the
charge is filed under PC 490.1(a)/PC 484/490.1(a).

For you to have taken property from
another person means simply that you actually physically took the property from
another person, as opposed to obtaining the property by fraud or embezzlement.


Petty Theft is a misdemeanor only
violation in California. If the value is higher than $950, then it becomes a
different charge. If you are convicted of a Petty Theft, you could be sentenced
to County Jail for up to 180 days. You would be required to serve 50% of that
time. You would also be required to pay back the item that you took in the form
of Restitution.

This is another crime of Moral Turpitude, so if you are living in the United States on a non-permanent basis, then understand a conviction under this section can and likely will result in your Deportation. The same issues apply to people with Professional Licenses because the charge inherently involves lying or deceit.


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Mistake of Fact
  4. Violation of your Rights

As discussed above, many times you
are able to defend against this charge because you actually had consent to take
the item from the owner. A common example of this charge is when you leave a store
without paying for an item. You may have left it in your bag, or in your
pocket, but when you go to leave the store, security stops you. They have been
watching you on the screen, and noticed you put some headphones in your bag.
You realize you did, and you totally forgot to put them back.

Flash-forward you’re now sitting in
the back of Department Store, giving a statement to a Security Officer, and
waiting for police to stop by and arrest you. However, if you did not actually
intend to steal the item, like here, it was placed in a spot by mistake, then
you cannot be convicted under this charge. Do understand, that putting an item
in your pocket is usually a strong indicator that you did so with the idea of
never returning that item.

Call Today

Facing charges under PC 484, commonly related to petty theft, may seem minor at first glance. However, for individuals concerned about their professional titles or immigration status, the repercussions can be far-reaching. Beyond the typical legal penalties, these charges can bring unexpected consequences, such as a major department store imposing a lifelong shopping ban, potentially impacting your daily life and social standing.

In these scenarios, the role of a knowledgeable attorney, well-versed in the nuances of licensing and immigration implications, becomes critical. Over the years, I have dedicated myself to defending a multitude of cases involving PC 484, as well as other fraud and theft offenses, gaining a deep understanding and comprehensive expertise in this area of law.

At Inland Empire Criminal Defense, our Ontario criminal defense attorney specializing in PC 484 is equipped with the experience and insight necessary to meticulously explore every possible defense strategy for your case. We recognize the significant impact these charges can have on your professional and personal life and are committed to vigorously defending your rights.

We invite you to take advantage of our free initial consultation. Our team is ready to address any questions or concerns you may have, 24/7. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Inland Empire Criminal Defense at 909-939-7126. Located conveniently in Ontario, CA, we stand prepared to guide you through this challenging legal process and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Yes, understanding the financial pressures that can come with legal representation, our attorney offers flexible payment plans. This approach ensures that quality legal defense is accessible for all our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Yes, Inland Empire Criminal Defense offers free consultations. This is part of our commitment to providing accessible and transparent legal services to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

We offer both in-person and over-the-phone consultations to accommodate your preferences and needs. Whether you’re in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles County, we ensure that you can access our legal services in the way that suits you best.

Our office is typically closed on weekends. However, we do make exceptions for meetings by special arrangement. Our commitment is to be as accommodating as possible to meet the unique needs of our clients in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties.

Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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