This month, a former UCLA student was arrested in connection with the theft of 55 MacBook laptops from the University’s library. The same individual was also believed to be responsible for stealing two other laptops in a separate incident.

Theft is classified in two ways in California: petty theft and grand theft.

Petty Theft

Petty theft occurs when the stolen property is valued at $950 or less. Oftentimes, a petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor. This is also more likely if the theft was the result of shoplifting and the thief had no prior criminal record along with the stolen goods’ value of less than $950.

If one is charged with petty theft, he or she can expect a jail sentence of up to 6 months, a fine of no more than $1,000, or both. Furthermore, if the property is valued at $50 or less, the individual can be charged with a simple infraction as long as no other theft-related incidents are on the individual’s record. If the defendant is charged with an infraction, the fine is $250 or less.

Grand Theft

If someone steals property valued at $950 or more or in one of the following categories, it is considered grand theft:

  • Firearms
  • Livestock
  • Vehicles

A prosecutor may charge grand theft as a misdemeanor under California law. If the defendant is so lucky, he or she will receive a jail sentence of no more than one year. However, if the defendant is charged with a felony, he or she will receive a prison sentence of at least one year.

Felony theft can also be imposed if the defendant had a prior theft conviction, a prior serious or violent felony conviction, a prior conviction related to theft, or is a registered sex offender.

Theft of a firearm can result in a felony conviction and an imprisonment term of 16 months, two years, or three years. Theft of a motor vehicle will result in a grand theft auto charge, which is also a felony.

If you, or a loved one, have been charged with petty or grand theft in California, it is in your best interest to obtain the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. David S. Kestenbaum has years of experience handling theft crime cases, and he has obtained successful jury verdicts and plea deals for many of his clients.

For a consultation, Mr. Kestenbaum welcomes your call to his office of the Kestenbaum Law Group at (818) 616-4312. It is a good idea to keep this number in your wallet or purse, if you should ever be in need of immediate legal counsel.