Theft | Robbery | Burglary
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    San Diego Theft Crime Defense Attorney

    California has stringent laws against theft crimes. Theft crimes are defined as criminal acts in which an individual or group of individuals takes another person’s property or money without the owning party’s permission. These crimes can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, with the latter carrying much more severe criminal implications.

    The Law Offices of David Silldorf have over 40 years of combined experience representing California residents charged with serious crimes. We specialize in aggressive trial practices and appellate advocacy. Our firm prides itself on original motions practice, achieved through individualized and focused attention on each client that works with our practice. 

    Theft Crimes In California

    The California Penal Code outlines multiple theft crimes. These crimes range in severity, but every case, regardless of the outcome or possible consequence, deserves legal representation to ensure your constitutional rights are respected. Below you will find a breakdown of some of these crimes and their legal implications.

    If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony theft charge and are in need of legal representation, please contact us for a complimentary case review. Many theft crimes in California are what are known as “wobbler” cases, meaning they can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on how the prosecutor approaches the case.

    Grand Theft - Penal Code § 487

    Pursuant to California Penal Code § 487, grand theft is classified as the unlawful seizure of another individual’s property valued at over $950. The main difference between grand theft and petty theft is the monetary value of the stolen possessions in question.

    The severity of the charge can vary based on a number of factors including the offender’s criminal record, the value of the item, and the circumstances around the case. For example, if the item was stolen in a particularly violent fashion, the court will take that into account and more than likely impose a harsher sentence.

    Misdemeanor grand theft carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail. Felony grand theft penalties can fall between sixteen months and three years in state prison. Both misdemeanor and felony charges could also carry fines and other forms of restitution for the victims.

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

    Under Penal Code § 487(d)(1), grand theft auto is a type of grand theft charge that specifically involves the taking of an automobile. This could involve one vehicle or multiple vehicles, with each vehicle carrying its own separate charge.

    In California, grand theft auto is typically considered a felony charge and carries potential penalties of jail time between sixteen months and three years in state prison. There is also a maximum fine of $10,000.

    It is possible for a grand theft auto charge to be considered a misdemeanor. This typically only happens for first-time offenders. If the charge is a misdemeanor, possible penalties include a maximum jail sentence of one year.

    Petty Theft - Penal Code §§ 484 & 488

    Petty theft can be found under California Penal Code §§ 484 and 488 and is considered the unlawful taking of another person’s property valued up to $950. Any property amount exceeding $950 falls under the Grand Theft charge discussed above.

    Petty theft is also commonly referred to as shoplifting. In most cases, petty theft charges are classified as misdemeanors. If the defendant has a criminal history, especially with petty theft, the charge may be elevated to a felony, depending on various facts and circumstances.  Misdemeanor petty theft charges carry a potential jail sentence of up to six months and a maximum $1,000 fine. Defendants may also face restitution to the victims and up to one year of probation.

    As with grand theft charges, petty theft penalties can change based upon the defendant’s record, the circumstances surrounding the theft, and the value of the items stolen. If you are facing a felony petty theft charge – which is rare, but possible – there is a potential sentence of up to one year in jail or sixteen months in state prison. Felony charges also carry more severe fines, restitution, and probation periods.

    Burglary - Penal Code § 459

    Penal Code § 459 defines burglary as unlawfully entering another individual’s property without permission and with the intent to commit a crime – in this case, theft. Burglary charges can vary depending on whether the burglarized property is residential or commercial.

    If a defendant burglarizes a residential property with the intent to steal, this is considered a first-degree felony and penalties range from two to six years in prison. Commercial properties are considered a second-degree felony and could be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

    Misdemeanor burglary charges carry potential penalties of up to one year of jail time. You could also face time in prison based on previous offenses.

    Robbery - Penal Code § 211

    Robbery is outlined in California Penal Code § 211 as the forceful seizure of an individual’s property from either their body or property through the use of physical force or violence. There are multiple types of robbery cases that could lead to other charges depending on the circumstances of the crime.

    Some examples of felony offenses include robbing from an ATM, an armored truck, or in an inhabited structure. If weapons are used in the robbery, other charges are very likely to be filed. Using a firearm in a robbery automatically upgrades the charge to a more serious offense.

    Felony robbery charges carry a possible sentence of three to nine years in state prison. Second-degree robbery charges are less severe and carry potential sentences of two to five years in prison.

    Embezzlement - Penal Code § 503

    Embezzlement is a unique form of theft in that it involves unlawfully misappropriating money or assets that are entrusted to you by another party. This crime falls under California Penal Code § 503 and is most commonly seen with employees of a company. Financial and wealth management businesses are common venues for embezzlement.

    This crime can either be branded as a misdemeanor or felony offense based on the stolen property’s value. As with most other theft crimes in the state, the charges and penalties can vary based on past criminal behavior and the amount of money embezzled.

    Misdemeanor embezzlement charges carry a potential jail sentence of up to six months, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both. A felony charge could land you in prison for a term between sixteen months or three years in prison – potentially even more given the amount of money embezzled and the number of affected parties. You could also be looking at significant fines and restitution.

    Defenses For Theft Charges

    How we defend a theft case ultimately comes down to the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your specific case. Some possible defenses that can be used in court include:


    If the defendant has proof they had the consent of the party alleging theft, the case could be dismissed in court. These situations typically involve some type of mix-up or miscommunication between both parties, where the defendant may argue they had the permission of the offended party to take the property in question.

    Lack Of Intent

    Intent is a driving factor behind litigating most criminal cases, and theft cases are no exception. Prosecutors are looking to prove that the defendant intended to steal from the alleged victim. However, if your defense team can prove there was no intent in the defendant taking an item or possession, they can potentially get the charge dismissed on the grounds that you didn’t mean to cause any harm or unknowingly took something that didn’t belong to you.

    Being Falsely Accused

    False accusations are common in theft cases. This type of situation is most commonly seen between friends, family, or people who have some form of relationship. If you feel you are being falsely accused, or that you had permission but now the alleged victim is claiming a theft occurred, we can help craft your defense case around these facts.

    Hiring a Lawyer To Defend Against Theft Charges

    Having a reputable, experienced lawyer can help exponentially with mounting your defense and mitigating your possible punishment. David Silldorf Law has been trusted by thousands of individuals for their legal representation in criminal cases. Our firm has years of trial experience and has defended countless theft cases in the state.

    Retaining counsel is the first step defendants can take towards a successful legal outcome for theft charges. We offer a free case review for any parties being charged with either a misdemeanor or felony theft charge. If we take your case, we will get to work right away in prepping your defense and getting ready for trial.

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      David Silldorf, Criminal Defense Attorney in San Diego

      The Law Offices of David Silldorf have experience working with local San Diego judges and prosecutors. We will carefully evaluate your case, and help you choose the best course of action to obtain the best possible outcome. Our team works tirelessly to ensure that you won’t face unnecessary or extreme punishments.

      If you or someone you know has been recently arrested for Theft, Burglary, or Robbery, don’t hesitate to call us today for a free consultation.

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