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

The Law Firm Trusted By CNN, Fox News & CBS For Criminal Defense Analysis

What is Grand Theft Under California Penal Code Section 487?

  • California’s law on grand theft defines grand theft as the intentional taking away of the property of another when:
  • Property stolen was worth more than $950.
  • The property was taken directly off of the property owner, no matter how much the property is worth (i.e. taken from the clothing of, on the body of, or in a container held or carried by a person, as in a mugging);
  • The property was of a certain type, including:
  • Automobile or firearm.
  • Fruit or nuts worth more than $250. fish, shellfish, or aquacultural products worth more than $250 if taken from a commercial fishery or research operation.
  • Certain animals like a horse.

Except as listed above, 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 and 488 

Former Prosecutor Diana Aizman Providing Legal Analysis

Hannah Graham Case Analysis By Diana Aizman
Aaron Hernandez Trial
Indiana Explosion Trial
“Gone Girl” Kidnapping Case

Examples of Grand Theft:

  • Shoplifting jewelry from a jewelry store that is valued over $950.
  • Picking a wallet from a woman’s purse while sitting next to her on the bus.
  • Stealing computers or mobile devices.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove 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 theft1;
  • The property’s value was over $9502.

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.
  • Belief that the Property Belonged 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 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.

Misdemeanor:  If convicted of the offense as a misdemeanor, you face up to 1 year in a county jail.

Felony: If convicted of the offense as a felony, you face either felony probation with up to 1 year in county jail, or a sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison.

Related Offenses

Hiring An Attorney

The attorneys at the Aizman Law Firm can help you if have been charged under penal code 487 pc. Contact the Aizman law Firm if you have any questions or if you would like a free consultation at 818-351-9555 

Miles Booth
Diana Aizman
Founding Attorney
(818) 351-9555
Lisa Jensen

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 

California Defense Lawyers

Contact A Defense Attorney

Resources From DUI Attorneys

View All Our DUI Articles

Penal Codes & Charges

See More Penal Code Sections


  1. Theft can be committed in several ways, as listed below in the next section, such as permanently depriving another of their property; temporarily depriving another of their property in a way in which the owner is denied  of a major part of its value or enjoyment; deceiving or defrauding another of their property or services; or with the intent to do any of the above []
  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 []