Accused of staging bogus accidents, a 42-year-old man was recently arrested for allegedly conning money from motorists in the Mid-City area as well as the San Fernando Valley. NBC Los Angeles reports that the scheme may have had many more victims. Among other charges, the individual faces accusations of grand theft.
What is Grand Theft?
California law defines grand theft by the value of the misappropriated goods or funds. Whereas petty theft involves an offense involving property or money totaling less than $950, grand theft is defined as theft of items in excess of $950.
Under certain circumstances, California prosecutors may charge a defendant with grand theft even if the total amount of the property taken was less than $950. This is usually the case when farm goods, firearms or motor vehicles are involved.
What are the Legal Consequences?
California's penal code calls for misdemeanor grand theft sentencing to include a term of up to 12 months in a county jail. If the case merits a felony conviction because of the circumstances surrounding the occurrence, it is possible to face a jail term of up to three years. In particularly severe cases, the sentence may take the convicted felon to state prison rather than the county jail. Prior criminal convictions influence the sentencing structure the judge follows.
What are Possible Defenses?
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney heightens your chances of avoiding a lengthy state prison term or even going free. Possible defenses the professional may introduce include:
- Entrapment. Is it possible that the victim of the theft believed you to be guilty of other thefts? If so, the individual may have tried to set you up to prove a suspicion. When a legal professional can show that there was an entrapment element, it is possible to successfully defend against a charge of grand theft.
- Questionable ownership. Were you taking property that you believed in good faith to belong to you? Were you under the impression that the other party had given you the right of possession either after winning a bet or simply as a gift? At times, it is difficult to establish ownership of property because of verbal promises made or even contracts entered into by two parties. When there is a question of ownership, a defense lawyer may be able to argue that you were not actually intending to commit a crime.
- Altered state of mind. Although intoxication may not be a great defense, it can help you beat the allegation of having intent to steal. The same may be true for an altered state of mind resulting from the use of prescription drugs or other medications.
Do not leave your grand theft defense to chance. If you are facing these charges in Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore Corona or Riverside, contact us today to discuss your case and harness a strong defense. We can help!