6 Things You Didn’t Know About “Grand Theft” Charges

Penal Code 487

California’s law on grand theft defines grand theft as the intentional taking away of the property of another when the property or services stolen was worth more than $9501.

What is Considered Grand Theft?

The elements of a “grand theft” depend on the type of grand theft that is involved (discussed in more detail in the next section).

To prove that you are guilty of grand theft, a prosecutor has to show the following:

  • The defendant committed theft.
  • The property’s value was over $9502.

If the value of the stolen property is $950 or less, the theft is considered to be “petty theft” pursuant to California Penal Code Section 484.

Examples of Grand Theft Under Penal Code 487

  • Stealing jewelry from a jewelry store that is valued over $950.
  • Removing a wallet from a woman’s purse that is physically touching the rightful owner.3
  • Stealing computers or mobile devices.

Is Grand Theft a Misdemeanor or Felony?

Prosecutors have discretion when filing misdemeanor or felony charges and this decision is based on a variety of factors including the following4:

  • The total value of the property that was alleged to have been stolen.
  • How the crime was alleged to have been carried out including if there was any violence or threat of violence to victims.
  • The criminal history of the individual or individuals involved, especially if there are convictions for similar crimes in the defendants past.

Which Office Prosecutes The Case?

The district attorneys office typically handle felonies and the city attorneys office handle misdemeanors.  Some jurisdictions only have a district attorneys office which handles both.

Legal Defenses

No Intent To Steal

Intent is one of the requisite elements that a prosecutor has to show in order to convict of a theft crime.

If you did not have intent to steal in the first place, you are not guilty of grand theft.

Consent From The Owner

If the owner of the property that you allegedly stole gave you permission to take the property, you are not guilty of grand theft.


Peter’s neighbor gave him permission to use his lawnmower over the weekend.  However, after Peter went over to the neighbor’s front lawn and took the lawnmower to mow his lawn, the neighbor accused Peter of stealing the lawn mower from him.

Peter can use the defense of consent to show that he had the owner’s permission to use the lawn mower and that his intent was not to steal it, but only to borrow it.

Belief That The Property Belongs To You

If the property actually belonged to you or if you honestly but mistakenly thought that the property you took belonged to you, you are not guilty of grand theft.

This additionally shows that your intent was not to take the property; rather to claim or re-claim what you thought was rightfully yours. 

You Were Falsely Accused

If you were wrongfully accused of taking something, but you did not do so, or did not intent to do so, your criminal defense attorney will ensure to thoroughly investigate the evidence in your favor and to try to show that you were framed, set up, or just plainly wrongfully blamed for something you did not do.

Penalties For Grand Theft

Grand theft is a wobbler offense which means it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony offense.

The level of the penalty depends on the facts of the case and your criminal history.

Probation Not mandatoryFelony probation
Jail Or Prison sUp to 1 year County JailUp to 1 year County Jail, or 16 months, 2 or 3 years in state prison subject to Penal Code 1170(h)(1)
Enhancement Pursuant to Penal Code Section 12022.6(a)

If there are multiple charges of theft, whether grand or petty theft, and the aggregate loss exceeds any of the statutory minimums in California Penal Code Section 12022.6(a), and the thefts arise from a common scheme or plan, an additional prison term may be imposed.

If the aggregate loss exceeds statutory amounts ranging from $50,000 to $2.5 million and the theft arises from a common scheme or plan, an additional term of one to four years may be imposed.5

Resources On The Criminal Court Process & Related Charges

Next Steps If You Have Been Charged

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about what attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you are ready to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Get Legal Help

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. Grand Theft of Property or Services. Pen. Code, § 487(a) [property or services
    exceeding $950 in value] []
  2. The value of the stolen item(s) is determined by the fair market value if it involves property.  If it involves services, the value is determined by the contract price if there was a contract, or the reasonable value/rate for services in the area if there was no contract []
  3. People v. Williams (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1465,1472 [12 Cal.Rptr.2d 243], People v. Huggins (1997) 51 Cal.App.4th 1654, 1656–1657 [60 Cal.Rptr.2d 177] []
  4. Penal Code 489 PC []
  5. Pen. Code, § 12022.6(a)(1)–(4); see People v. Daniel (1983) 145 Cal.App.3d 168, 174–175 [193 Cal.Rptr. 277] [no error in refusing to give unanimity instruction]. []

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