Facing criminal charges of any kind can be overwhelming and frightening, particularly for first-time offenders. Much of the anxiety stems from a lack of familiarity with the charges and the potential consequences they carry. While most people have heard the terms “theft,” “robbery,” and “burglary” before, it can be difficult to identify the subtle differences among these offenses. They can seem interchangeable, but California law views and defines each offense differently. If you or a loved one has been charged with theft, robbery, or burglary in Los Angeles County, it’s essential to contact an experienced and trusted criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will assess the details of your case and help you identify the most strategic path forward. Let’s take a look at how theft, robbery, and burglary offenses differ under California law and what steps you can take to maximize your chances of a fair outcome.
Theft Offenses in California
Theft, also known as larceny, occurs when someone knowingly and intentionally takes personal property belonging to another. Under Chapter 5, Section 484 of the California Penal Code, “Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor, or real or personal property….is guilty of theft.” If law enforcement arrests you for the criminal act of taking someone’s property with the express intention of never returning it to its rightful owner, you may face theft charges.
Types of Theft Charges and Potential Penalties
California recognizes two main types of theft: Petty theft and grand theft. Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense and involves taking property valued below $950. If convicted, you may spend up to six months in jail and face up to $1,000 in fines (as long as you have no more than 2 prior convictions for theft). However, if this is your fourth petty theft offense, you will likely face felony charges. Additionally, if the petty theft involves a firearm and you have one or more previous convictions, a petty theft charge may escalate from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Grand theft occurs when the property is valued at higher than $950. If convicted, you could face up to one year in county jail. However, any previous convictions may lead to more serious charges for subsequent offenses.
Robbery Crimes in Los Angeles County
Robbery is similar to theft in that both offenses involve taking property that rightfully belongs to someone else. However, robbery offenses involve person-to-person contact and the use of force or threats, while theft crimes do not. Under Chapter 4, Section 211 of the California Penal Code, “Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.” Essentially, if the incident involves face-to-face contact and the alleged victim feels threatened or compelled to surrender their property, robbery charges may follow.
Penalties for Robbery in California
California recognizes two primary types of robbery charges: Robbery in the first degree and robbery in the second degree. Any robbery occurring in an inhabited dwelling, like a house, trailer, or apartment, is considered first-degree robbery. You can also face a first-degree robbery charge if the offense was committed against a vehicle operator or occurred near an ATM. Carjacking also qualifies as first-degree robbery. All other forms of robbery are considered second-degree robbery offenses. These offenses are felonies, punishable by a two- to ten-year prison sentence, costly fines, restitution to the victim, and receiving a “strike” on your criminal record. You may also face additional penalties, such as the revocation of your driver’s license and barriers to housing and employment opportunities.
Burglary Offenses in Southern California
Burglary offenses entail the entering of a residential structure, commercial structure, or locked vehicle with the intent to commit grand theft, petty theft, or any felony offense. Burglary offenses may still apply even if the alleged perpetrator did not force their way into the structure or vehicle. First-degree burglary (a felony offense that is punishable by two, four, or six years in prison) involves a residential dwelling, while second-degree burglary applies to any other type of structure. Second-degree burglary is considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning you could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. To secure a burglary conviction, prosecutors must prove that you entered the residence or structure with the intent to take property not lawfully belonging to you or with the intent to commit any felony. Even if you did not remove the property from the environment, you could still be charged with burglary.
Protect Your Future Today
Whether you are facing criminal charges for theft, robbery, or burglary in Los Angeles County, contact a dedicated and skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Now is not the time to leave your freedom up to chance—enlist an attorney to defend your legal rights and fight hard to secure you the best possible outcome given the specifics of your case.