Petty Theft

California Penal Code 484(a) P.C.

Petty theft involves the theft of property worth $950.00 or less.

What is a Petty Theft Charge?

Under California Penal Code 484(a) P.C., you can be charged with Petty Theft if you allegedly stole property worth no more than nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950.00). If the property is worth more, you will be charged with Grand Theft. If the alleged theft occurred in a commercial building, you will be charged with Shoplifting. Petty Theft is a specific intent crime, which means that the prosecutor must prove that you intentionally stole the property.

Petty Theft is typically charged as a misdemeanor. However, under California Penal Code 666 P.C., you can be charged with felony Petty Theft if you were previously convicted of a theft-related crime at any time in the past.

What are Examples of Petty Theft?

Examples of Petty Theft include the following:

  • You borrowed an old lawnmower from your neighbor with no intention of returning it.
  • You swiped an older-model iPhone off a counter at Starbucks while the owner was using the restroom.
  • You stole the side mirror of a car you found parked on the street.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for a Petty Theft Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of Petty Theft under California Penal Code 484(a) P.C., the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 1800 and CALCRIM 1801):

  • You took possession of property owned by someone else;
  • You took the property without the owner’s consent;
  • When you took the property, you intended to permanently deprive the owner of it, or to remove it from the owner’s possession for such an extended period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of its value or enjoyment; and
  • You moved the property, even a small distance, and kept in for any period of time, however brief.


the value of the property is less than $950

What Happens If I am Convicted of a Petty Theft Charge?

If you are convicted of Petty Theft under California Penal Code 484(a) P.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • Six months in county jail; and
  • A maximum fine of $1,000;
  • Probation for 12-36 months;
  • Imposition of a stay-away order to stay away from the establishment from which you allegedly stole;
  • Victim restitution;
  • Possible community service; and
  • Possible loss of ability to obtain or maintain a professional license, loss of employment or educational opportunities, or adverse immigration consequences (if applicable).

If you are convicted of felony Petty Theft, you could face more than one year in prison, depending on how many previous theft-related convictions you have, as well as other factors (e.g., you were on parole or probation at the time of the arrest, etc.).

What are My Possible Defenses to a Petty Theft Charge?

Petty Theft cases can often be resolved during the investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Petty Theft attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, or to convince the D.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Petty Theft, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of an accident or unintentional conduct, or that the District Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Petty Theft.

The following are the possible defenses to a Petty Theft charge:

  • Failure to take away or move property. You did not actually steal or otherwise take away the property.
  • “Claim of right”. You reasonably believed the property was yours.
  • Consent. You reasonably believed that you had the owner’s consent to take the property.
  • Lack of intent. At the time of the incident, you did not have the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, or for an extended period of time.
  • Mistake. You took or moved the property by mistake or accident.
  • False accusations. The alleged victim or supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who allegedly committed the theft. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, racial profiling, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Petty Theft Cases Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented hundreds of clients against Petty Theft charges, including property allegedly taken from all types of businesses and properties, and has defended both adults and juveniles.


If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Petty Theft criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).


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