Larceny is the legal word for theft. Theft, or larceny, in the state of California is defined as the unlawful taking of someone else’s physical property without their permission. Depending on the type of property, the State of California has certain thresholds for determining whether the crime is seen as petty theft or grand larceny. The more valuable the item, the more likely it is to weigh on the side of grand theft.

How Does California Define Grand Larceny?

Because the penalties associated with grand larceny are more severe than petty theft, the property that was stolen is typically noted at a higher dollar value. In California, the property that’s taken without the owner’s permission constitutes grand larceny if it’s valued over $950. As a note, this amount was lower for certain thefts prior to the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014.

Grand Larceny, however, still applies to the following lower-valued property items if the person stealing the property has one or more of the following prior convictions on his or her record:

  • Convictions for sexual offenses, which require registration under California’s Sex Offender Registration Act
  • Certain felony convictions that are considered serious, such as rape, murder, and child molestation

People who fall into the above mentioned categories may also face grand larceny charges, regardless of the value of the property stolen, if the property was:

  • A firearm
  • An automobile
  • A farm animal (such as a horse, sheep, or pig)
  • Stolen from the owner’s body (such as clothing or a container held by him or her)
  • Stolen from an employer an accumulated to $950 over a 12-month time period

What are the Penalties Associated with Grand Larceny?

Grand larceny is considered a “wobbler offense” in California, which means the prosecutor may pursue charges as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the particulars of each individual case. The decision as to which charges are filed is left to the discretion of the prosecuting attorney, which usually factors in unique case specifics, as well as the criminal history of the offender.

Misdemeanor grand larceny offenses in California max out at one year in county jail.

Felony grand larceny offenses in California can come with felony probation, accompanied by up to one year in county jail or between 16 and 36 months in county jail.

Firearm grand larceny charges in California are more substantial. They’re considered a “strike offense” under California’s Three-Strikes Law, there is no misdemeanor option for these charges, and they deliver between 16 and 36 months of California state prison time.

What are Examples of Grand Larceny in California?

Example #1:

John steals a car that’s only valued at $500. Prior to this incident, he’d never had so much as a speeding ticket. This will only be considered petty theft on his record.

Sam steals a car that’s also only valued at $500, but he has a rape conviction on his record. Because of the prior conviction, this theft will be considered grand larceny, despite the low value of the vehicle he stole.

Example #2:

Sarah has been stealing reams of paper from her employer for a year. She steals one ream a month, each of which is valued at $10. At the end of the year, she is caught, but the total cost of her theft over 12 months is only $120, so she won’t face grand larceny charges.

Donna stole one computer from work last month and another three months before that. Both computers were valued at $600. She’ll face grand larceny charges because the total amount of her thefts totaled more than $950, even though she stole the computers at different times, and both her valued at less than $950 each.

Example #3:

Pat stole a horse from a farm that’s valued at $900. Because she doesn’t have any prior convictions, this isn’t considered grand larceny.

Jamie stole three pigs from a farm, which valued $900 in total. Jamie was also convicted of a rape charge previously, meaning this will constitute grand larceny, despite the value of the pigs.

Grand larceny is a serious offense that can lead to many penalties. Before you have your day in court, be sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will investigate your unique case and stand in your corner when it’s time to fight on your behalf.

Mark Sollitt is a Sacramento criminal defense lawyer who has spent many years helping his clients negotiate the best deals possible. If you’re seeking assistance with grand larceny charges in California, call Mark Sollitt at (800) 420-5667 any time, day or night!