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Los Angeles Theft Crimes Lawyer

If the police arrest you for a theft crime, your future is at stake. A theft conviction can cause long-term problems with your career, professional licensure, and future in general. You need to protect yourself by speaking with a Los Angeles theft crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible.

When you contact Chudnovsky Law, you are seeking help from a highly skilled team of former prosecutors with a combined six decades of experience on both sides of criminal cases in Los Angeles County courts. Our team is award-winning, with respect from our peers, prosecutors, judges, and more.

Theft is a broad category that covers many different criminal offenses. Theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. First-time offenders can keep a theft conviction off their record through a diversion program. For these reasons, contact a Los Angeles theft crimes lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you involve a defense attorney in your case, the better options they will have to resolve the charges against you.

Our criminal defense lawyers can also protect you from violations of your constitutional rights by the police or prosecutor.

Learn more about theft charges and how our Los Angeles theft crimes lawyers can protect you throughout your criminal case.


Felony Theft Charges

Section 484 of the California Penal Code defines larceny. This definition includes felonious intent, but the value of stolen goods or services must exceed $950 to be charged as a felony. (The grand theft statute includes exceptions for automobiles and firearms. There are also lower thresholds for felony charges with specific agricultural products.)

The penal code creates felony charges for a variety of special circumstances, including:

Grand larceny is not the only theft crime that the state can charge as a misdemeanor:

White Collar Crimes

Many theft charges are informally known as white-collar crimes.”These charges involve large-scale theft, usually through a corporation or other organized means.

Common examples include:

  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Health care fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Insider trading
  • Ponzi schemes and investor fraud
  • Labor racketeering
  • Political racketeering

Because white-collar crimes usually involve the systematic theft of large sums of money, the penalties for a conviction can be quite severe. You can face years in prison on a single count. Most white-collar cases involve multiple counts of serious theft charges, so a single case can result in a sentence of decades in prison. Be sure to consult with one of our Los Angeles defense attorneys as soon as you learn of any law enforcement investigation involving white-collar crimes.

Cyber Theft

Cyber theft has been a developing area of the law since the early days of the internet. Law enforcement agencies constantly train and work hard to stay on top of the latest digital theft schemes. Currently, NFTs and blockchain transactions are hot areas of cybercrime, but these are not the only ways that cyber theft occurs.

The FBI investigates many cybercrimes:

  • Identity theft
  • Spoofing and phishing schemes
  • Business email compromise
  • Ransomware
  • Elder fraud
  • Business and investment fraud
  • Charity and donation fraud
  • Consumer fraud schemes
  • Adoption fraud
  • Romance fraud

Because these cyber crimes often cross state lines, the FBI has federal jurisdiction in most of these cases. This jurisdiction means that a defendant can be charged in federal court and face much stricter sentencing than lesser offenses created by state law. Sometimes, a person does not even know they are a suspect until law enforcement has obtained a subpoena to search their electronic devices.

Whether you face state or federal charges, you need an experienced cyber crimes lawyer to protect your rights throughout the criminal investigation and court process.

Misdemeanor Theft Charges

Different types of misdemeanor theft charges can carry different penalties. Some of the most common misdemeanor theft charges include:


The Penal Code defines shoplifting as entering an establishment during its regular business hours with the intent to commit larceny (theft). So long as the value of goods taken does not exceed $950, this charge is a misdemeanor, but more significant amounts of theft can face felony charges.

Felonies can also feature:

  • for certain specialty items (such as firearms)
  • when the defendant has eligible prior convictions
  • if the defendant faces burglary instead of shoplifting

Petty Theft

The California Penal Code broadly defines petty theft as all other theft. This misdemeanor excludes the felony charges outlined in other theft sections of the penal code. In general, you will face petty theft charges only when the value of the stolen goods or services is less than $950, with exceptions for guns and automobiles. In many special circumstances, a different threshold applies.

A misdemeanor theft conviction carries a maximum penalty of six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. If you are facing felony theft charges, it may be possible to have them reduced to a misdemeanor, depending on the specific facts of your case.

Keeping a misdemeanor conviction off your record is also possible if you are eligible for a diversion program. Mitigating the consequences of theft charges is just one more reason why you need to hire a Los Angeles theft crimes lawyer as soon as possible.

“Wobbler” Theft Charges

A “wobbler” is an offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. California law has several “wobbler” theft offenses:


Section 463 of the California Penal Code creates the crime of looting. Looting is when a theft occurs during a state of emergency, a local emergency, or evacuation order. This offense can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, but looting carries stricter penalties than theft that occurs during non-emergencies.

Even in the case of misdemeanor theft under $950, there is still a presumptive jail sentence of 90 days. Grand theft (over $950) committed during an emergency features a presumptive minimum sentence of 180 days in jail.

Judges can lift this presumption with good cause, but the defendant must show why they should not go to jail.

Petty Offense With Prior Theft Convictions (Petty With a Prior)

If a person has prior convictions on their record, they can be charged with a felony, even if the current offense is petty theft. The outcome depends on how many prior convictions there are and other circumstances.

If you have any previous criminal record, consult a defense attorney as soon as possible. Prosecutors tend to press hard on defendants with prior criminal records. You have the right to hire your own lawyer to fight back and protect your constitutional rights.

FAQ About California Theft Charges

Does the officer have to read me the Miranda Rights?

The Miranda Rights are required before an officer can subject you to custodial interrogation. You are in custody when the police arrest or detain you. An interrogation occurs when an officer asks you a question designed to elicit an incriminating response.

So if, for example, the officer asks for your identification, this is not an interrogation. On the other hand, questions about where you were and what you did can be incriminating.

If the officer fails to read your Miranda Warnings before subjecting you to custodial interrogation, your answers will generally not be allowed as evidence at trial.

Officers need not read the Miranda Warnings unless a suspect is under custodial interrogation. Any information you give before this point can be evidence against you. The best policy is to say as little as possible to the police.

You must provide identification, but you have the constitutional right to decline to answer any incriminating questions. Simply let the officers know that you will not be answering any questions until you have spoken with your lawyer.

Contact our office as soon as possible to get further guidance on enforcing your rights against self-incrimination.

What if I refuse to answer the officer’s questions?

The Fifth Amendment protects everyone against self-incrimination. This protection means you do not have to make any incriminating statements to the police or prosecutor.

If you refuse to answer questions, the prosecutor may not use this as evidence of guilt. But interrogation means the police are trying to build a case against you. This underlying intent is why it is so important to get legal advice from an attorney who is actually on your side. The prosecutor does not have to give sound legal advice or try to protect your rights.

Call our office as soon as possible so that we can protect you from further interrogation.

What is a diversion program?

A diversion program is an agreement that allows a defendant to keep a conviction off their criminal record. The prosecutor agrees to dismiss charges after the defendant completes the diversion program. Program requirements might include counseling, theft programs, community service, and similar conditions.

Diversion programs are offered at the prosecutor's discretion. There is no guarantee that you can participate, but eligibility is more likely if you have no prior convictions and the amount stolen was relatively small.

Your defense lawyer is an advocate to encourage the prosecutor to accept you into a diversion program. If diversion is unavailable, your attorney will help you find the right strategy for your particular case.

Do filed charges go on my criminal record?

Your criminal record reflects the status of your case. It can show an arrest or filed charges, but these statuses do not cause most complications. A conviction creates problems in employment, housing, credit, security clearance, and other areas of life. A conviction also allows the case to factor as a prior in future criminal matters.

If you have questions about expungement, sealing records, or similar issues, our skilled defense attorneys are here to help.

Will I go to jail for a misdemeanor theft conviction?

Many misdemeanor theft charges do carry a potential jail sentence. This reality does not, however, mean that you are automatically going to jail when you get charged with petty larceny.

Your lawyer has the chance to prevent a wrongful conviction from ever going on your record at all. If you are found guilty at trial, your lawyer also has the opportunity to argue to the judge why your sentence should not include jail time. In some cases, the best strategy is to enter a plea agreement in which the prosecutor agrees not to seek jail time. The right strategy for your particular case will depend on many factors.

The sooner you involve a defense lawyer in your case, the better options they will have for resolving the charges against you.

What is a criminal restitution order?

A criminal restitution order orders a defendant to pay victims for lost, damaged, or stolen property. Whether you plead guilty in a plea agreement or get convicted at trial, a restitution order is almost always part of theft crimes cases. Defendants must pay restitution orders, fines, court costs, and any other fees ordered by the court. Here, too, a defense lawyer can help you mitigate the costs of your case.

Our theft attorneys work hard to prevent prosecutors from asking for unreasonable fines or restitution that exceeds the proven value of stolen goods or services. Without an advocate on your side, even a petty theft case can quickly become very expensive.

The Right Defense Lawyers For Los Angeles Theft Crimes

At Chudnovsky Law, our defense attorneys have years of experience handling all types of theft crimes cases.

We fight hard to protect our client’s constitutional rights during criminal investigations, the criminal case process, and on appeal. Clients across Los Angeles trust our legal team to defend their most basic rights.

Contact us today at (213) 212-5002 for your confidential, free consultation. Don’t wait to get an experienced theft crimes lawyer fighting for you.

Call 844 325-1444 to get help now

Get Your Charges Dropped or Reduced and Protect Your Future! If you are looking to hire a theft crimes defense attorney, we invite you to call for a Free confidential consultation 7 days a week.


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Written by Tsion ChudnovskyRobert Weinberg and David Stein.


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