California Penal Code 487 PC
In California, theft is divided into two categories: grand theft (487 PC) and petty theft. 487 PC is the law for grand theft or theft of something worth $950 or more in value.
What Is the Difference Between Grand Theft (487 PC) and Petty Theft?
Grand theft (487 PC) and petty theft are the two classifications of theft in Californian law. The main difference is that petty theft is the theft of property valued under $950 and grand theft is the theft of property valued at $950 or more.
Certain types of property will automatically attract 487 PC charges even if the value is less than $950. This includes:
- Certain livestock (horses, for example)
- Certain produce (avocados, for example)
Also, certain aspects may get the charges increased from petty theft to 487 PC grand theft charges. These include:
- The defendant is a registered sex offender
- The defendant has certain violent felony convictions on their record like murder, rape, child molestation, etc.
- The defendant took the property off the victim’s person or something they were holding
Definition of Grand Theft (487 PC)
The legal definition of grand theft (487 PC) is something with a value of $950 or more, or a firearm, or vehicle. If the item was taken directly off the person who was robbed, then it is also grand theft (487 PC). The property in question could be property, money, or even labor. Therefore if a contractor hires a laborer to do work on the house but fails to pay them, the contractor could risk a 487 PC charge.
487 PC is known as a “wobbler” which means that it may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. It is a common charge in California, because shoplifting any of the high-end stores and boutiques can easily reach the $950 value mark.
When a prosecutor charges a defendant under 487 PC, they must prove the following elements in order to get a conviction :
- The defendant took something that belonged to another person
- The defendant did not have the consent of the owner to take it
- The defendant’s intention was to take this property away from the owner
- The defendant kept the property or moved it to somewhere else
- The theft meets one or more of the following requirements:
- The value of the property is $950 or more
- The property was taken off the person of someone else
- The property was a vehicle
- The property was a firearm
487 PC has a number of related charges like grand theft under false pretense, grand theft by trick, and grand theft by embezzlement.
When Is 487 PC Grand Theft Charged As a Misdemeanor and When Is It Charged As a Felony?
487 PC is sometimes charged as a misdemeanor and sometimes charged as a felony. There is no cut and dry definition of when it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor as a lot of it is left up to discretion. A defendant charged with 487 PC grand theft could cut a deal with a prosecutor in order to be charged with misdemeanor. The prosecutor and judge will also take into account the defendant’s criminal records and the circumstances of the theft. If the defendant acted violently or injured the victim, they are more likely to be charged with a felony. The higher the value of the items, the more likely it will be charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
The following circumstances will always be charged with 487 PC felony:
- Theft of a firearm
- Causing intentional serious injury to the victim
- Theft of a vehicle
A misdemeanor 487 PC conviction will result in a county jail sentence of up to a year.
A felony 487 PC charge will result in either a county jail or state prison sentence of up to 3 years. Theft of a firearm will always result in a state prison sentence. If the property was a firearm, then the 487 PC conviction will count as a strike under California’s Three Strike’s Law.
In addition to incarceration, the defendant may also be ordered to pay fines and restitution.
If the defendant is convicted of a 487 PC felony, the judge may also increase the prison sentence in accordance with the value of the property that was stolen. The increased sentence starts when the value of the property is $65,000 and the defendant can face anywhere between 1 and 4 additional years to their sentence. The court will calculate the value at the time the property was stolen and will calculate the value of all the property stolen under the same scheme.
487 PC charges for high-value items should not be taken lightly. If you are facing grand theft charges (487 PC) then hire an attorney immediately.
What to Do If You Are Charged With 487 PC?
If you are charged with grand theft (487 PC) then you need to take the charges very seriously. As you can see, the consequences could be great. Not only do you face jail time and fines, but theft charges may impact your ability to find employment and housing in the future.
Speak to an attorney about your 487 PC charges in order to determine the best legal defense based on your circumstances. Common 487 PC defenses are:
- There was no intention to defraud or steal the property
- The property belonged to the defendant, therefore there was no theft
- The victim gave the defendant permission to take the property
Not all of these legal defenses will be appropriate to your circumstances. Your attorney will review all the evidence against you before deciding what the best approach is.