Getting arrested for, and particularly convicted of, a theft crime can have a long-ranging impact on your life, career and any professional license you may hold with the state.  A theft crime is a crime of moral turpitude, which are very much frowned upon when they come up in background checks or with the state board that may oversee a license you hold.

A crime of moral turpitude is one that involves either fraud, dishonesty or antisocial behavior that harms others.  These crimes of moral turpitude can lead to serious immigration consequences if you are not a citizen of the United States, loss of employment, and can be used to impeach your credibility.

If your job requires you to be licensed by the state, you may run into  administrative proceedings from those licensing authorities, resulting from your arrest.  For example, if you are a doctor, lawyer, nurse, or even a contractor, the state board who regulates your profession could initiate proceedings seeking to suspend or remove your license in addition to the criminal proceedings.

Thus, it is crucial to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who is aware of these potential consequences and can fight your case to get a result that doesn’t trigger those things from happening.  Getting charges reduced, changed, avoided via a diversion program, are all avenues you want your lawyer to pursue when dealing with a theft case.

What “is” a theft crime?

A theft occurs when someone takes something of value from another, without their consent.  Theft crimes range from a minor petty theft to serious charges of armed robbery.  Technically, a theft is the unlawful taking and removing of another’s person property with the intent of depriving him or her of it.

Theft crimes in California can be charged as felonies, misdemeanors, or wobblers (which are crimes that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of your case and any previous criminal history).

See general theft law here.

Examples of theft crimes include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Auto Theft
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Internet Theft
  • Credit/Check Card Fraud
  • Grand Theft
  • Armed Robbery

There are two levels of theft crimes: petty theft and grand theft.  Petty theft is the lesser offense and is charged as a misdemeanor.  Petty theft is the unlawful taking of someone’s property that is valued at $950 or less.  Grand theft is the more severe offense and is often filed as a felony.  Grand theft is the taking of someone else’s property valued at $950 or more.

Some FAQs about theft crimes

Does the cop have to read me my Miranda rights before they question me?

Well, the answer, unfortunately, is “it depends.”  Miranda rights are required before a law enforcement officer can subject you to a “custodial interrogation.”  You are technically “in custody” when the police arrest or detain you.  An “interrogation” occurs when the law enforcement officer asks you something designed to elicit some incriminating response from you.

A cop can ask for your identification, but cannot ask you questions about where and what you were doing.

Typically, a cop will want to delay this formal arrest as long as possible to get you to talk and make statements that are incriminating.  Making small talk, asking you little details, telling you they just want to “figure out what’s going on.”

Thus, always exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent and tell the cops you want to speak with your lawyer.

I’ve been arrested, but no charges have been filed.  Is the charge on my record?

Criminal records can show an arrest, a pending case, or a conviction.  Typically, convictions are the most problematic since they are what cause issues for housing, employment, public benefits, professional licenses, etc.


Some defenses that may arise in a theft case include not having any actual intent to steal, or deprive, the person of their property.  Maybe you mistakenly thought the item was yours and, in actuality, it wasn’t.  What also often comes up is if the property stolen actually belonged to you.  All that is needed is an actual, good faith, belief that this property actually belonged to you.

Also keep in mind that additional issues may arise where someone has had prior theft offense convictions.

Because prosecutors believe strongly in holding people accountable for stealing the property of others, you can expect to face rigorous prosecution if you are charged with a theft crime.  If you have been charged with a theft crime, it is important to contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich for a free consultation as soon as possible to get the investigation started into the facts of the case and to protect your rights.

For aggressive and vigorous defense of your rights, contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich today.

Attorney Ross Erlich

If you or someone you know has been charged with a theft crime, it is important to contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich as soon as possible so that the proper investigation and fact-gathering can be done on the case.  It is also imperative to have an attorney represent them from the moment they get wind of an arrest.  Proper handling of a theft charge can prevent a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude, and, in-turn, a significant issue on someone’s background.

Attorney Ross Erlich knows how, and when, to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, or even file a motion asking the judge to throw out some of that evidence from the case.  Attorney Ross Erlich knows when to leverage plea deals, how to best position his client to negotiate those deals to avoid a conviction for a theft crime, or, when appropriate, get a reduction in the charges or pursue a diversion that would prevent any conviction from occurring in the first place.

Because these charges are serious and are prosecuted aggressively, it is important that Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich examine all possible avenues for resolving the matter including reduction in the charges, theft counseling, traditional counseling, providing supportive documentation for why a theft may have occurred, and diversion.

For aggressive and vigorous defense of your rights, contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Ross Erlich today.

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