Theft Cases

If you have been arrested or charged with a theft violation you should call the Law Office of Edward M. Ramirez.  The variety of cases require different solutions.

Definition of Theft

There are numerous types of theft, and the California Penal Code provides a lengthy definition:

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, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.  Penal Code section 484.


Shoplifting occurring at retail stores is the most common example of theft.  Often there are closed circuit monitors and loss prevention staff who report the alleged theft.  The defendant is arrested leaving the store. 

Embezzlement charges are sometimes filed against employees at department stores and restaurants alleging misappropriation of money in a cash drawer entrusted to the employee. 

Forgery cases may involve the signing of checks belonging to another person and attempting to cash at a bank. 


Defenses in shoplifting cases may include the lack of evidence such as store video, failure of store employees to serve as effective witnesses, failure of the store to prove ownership of the merchandise by the store.  In embezzlement cases, the store may fail to provide videos of the alleged misappropriation or useful records of the defendant’s shift hours.  In forgery cases, the defendant when dealing with a third party may think he or she has the authority to sign the check. 


If you are charged with any type of theft violation you should call the Law Office of Edward M. Ramirez.  We will review the police report with you, obtain copies of all the evidence and discuss your options to obtain the best result in court.  Witness interviews may be necessary.


Theft of the property not exceeding $950 in value is punished as a misdemeanor, unless the defendant has designated prior convictions, which include prior specified sexually violent offenses or certain homicide related crimes.

Types of theft        

  • Larceny
  • Grand theft
  • Petty theft
  • Bad checks
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Extorsion
  • False instruments
  • False pretenses
  • Forgery
  • Grand theft
  • Insurance fraud
  • Larceny
  • Larceny by trick
  • Petty theft
  • Possession of burglary tools
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Robbery
  • Shoplifting
  • Unlawful taking of a vehicle


Larceny, along with other types of theft such as larceny by trick, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses and other related offenses are known as the single crime of “theft.”  There are four essential elements of the crime of larceny: 1) A taking; 2) Of the personal property of another; 3) Asportation of the property taken; and 4) The taking was done, without claim of right, to deprive the owner or his or her property permanently.

Grand Theft

If the value of the property exceeds $950, the crime is considered grand theft and is  punish able as a felony with a maximum punishment of three years in prison.  Penal Code section 487.  There are numerous exceptions where the value of the property is less than $950, and the violation can be charged as grand theft.

Petty Theft

Theft cases other than Grand Theft are Petty Theft. 

Bad Checks

A person is guilty of forgery if he or she, with intent to defraud, signs the name of another person, or a fictitious person, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, to a check, cashier’s check, money order etc.  Penal Code section 470(a), (d).


Any person who enters any structure listed in Penal Code section 459 (there are twenty-four such structures listed in that section including houses, apartments and stores.) with the intent to commit grand or petit larceny (theft) or any felony is guilty of burglary.  Penal Code section 459.  Burglary of an inhabited dwelling place is considered burglary of the first degree.  All other kinds of burglary are of the second degree.  Penal Code section 460.  Burglary of the first degree is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.  Penal Code section461.  Burglary in the second degree is punishable as a misdemeanor by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year or, if punished as a felony by imprisonment in the state prison or county jail for up to three years. 


Every person who takes a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the vehicle, accomplished by means of force or fear, is guilty of the crime of carjacking.  Penal Code 2156(a).


The elements of counterfeiting are  possession of counterfeit money; knowledge, at the time of possession, that the money is counterfeited; and possession with intent to defraud. Penal Code sections 470, 477and 648.

Counterfeiting gold or silver coin currency or gold or silver bullion or possession or making of dies, plates or other apparatuses for counterfeiting coin or paper currencyis a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison. 

Lesser counterfeiting offenses, such as counterfeiting fare media for public transportation may be treated either as a felony or a misdemeanor.  Making counterfeit paper money and counterfeit coins and using them in coin operated vending machines may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony. 

Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud includes several violations including obtaining a credit card and bank access cards and using a forged or expired credit card and bank access card. 


Embezzlement is “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.”  Penal Code section 503.  For example, an employee of a bank or restaurant may be charged with embezzlement for taking money from a cash drawer belonging to the business.  In some instances a  defense to embezzlement is the good faith belief that the property belongs to the defendant.  That the defendant intended later to restore the property to the owner is not a defense.  Punishment for embezzlement is the same as other forms of theft, but embezzlement of public funds is a felony. 


Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his or her consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.  Penal Code section 518.  There are four types of threats for purposes of the extortion statute: (1) A threat of an unlawful injury to the person or property of the victim or a third person; (2) A threat to accuse the victim or any relative or family member of any crime; (3) a threat to expose or to impute to the victim any deformity, disgrace, or crime; or (4) a threat to expose any secret affecting the victim or his or her family.  Penal Code section 519.

With a few exceptions, extortion is a felony. 

False Instruments

Under Penal Code section 475(a) it is a crime to possess with intent to pass  various and numerous forged, altered or counterfeit items knowing the nature of the items.  These items include checks, bonds, bank bills, notes, cashier’s checks or approximately seventy other items listed in Penal Code section 470(d).

False Pretenses

The crime of obtaining property by false pretense is committed when the victim is induced by fraud to part with both possession and title.  The elements of the crime of theft by false pretenses are (1) intent to defraud; (2) actual fraud committed; (3) the use of false pretenses to perpetrate the fraud; and (4) reliance on the false pretenses by the victim in parting with the property. People v. Nesseth, 127 Cal. App.2d 712, 715.


A person is guilty of forgery if he or she, with the intent to defraud, signs the name of another person, or  of a fictitious person, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, to one of a lengthy list of items listed in Penal Code section 490 including checks, bonds, bank bills or notes and cashier’s checks.

A person may also be guilty of forgery if he or she counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another person or alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance or other instrument, which is by law evidence, or certain court documents. 

It is also a crime to forge of falsify driver’s licenses or identification cards, entries in records or returns, medical records, public and corporate seals and telephone and telegraph messages. 

It is a crime of forgery to possess items forged, altered, counterfeit, or completed items with the intent to defraud.  It is a crime of forgery to possess the items that are blank or unfinished check, note, bank bill with the intent to complete the items in order to defraud any person.  It is forgery to complete checks, money orders, etc. with the intent of passing the item on order to defraud any person.

It is a crime to pass with intent to defraud any person a fictitious or altered check, etc. for payment of  money of a real or fictitious financial institution.  It is a crime to possess such an item with intent to pass the item with the intent to defraud any person.  Penal Code section 476. 

There are also other types of forgery, including the counterfeiting of a mark registered with the Secretary of State or the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Penal Code section 350; forging or counterfeiting a motor vehicle certificate, license, license plate, special plate or permit, Vehicle Code section 4463; forging or altering a prescription for any narcotic drug, Health and Safety Code section 11368; willful forgery of a union label or trademark, Labor Code section 1015; falsifying public records by a n officer having custody of them, Government Code section 6200(c), 6201;manufacturing or selling false government documents with the intent to conceal the true citizenship or resident alien status of another person, Penal Code section 113, now 112.


With some exceptions, forgery where the value of the check or document does not exceed $950 is now a misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment that of one year in jail.  Penal Code section 473 (a).  If treated as a felony the offense carries possible terms of three years, two years, or 16 months in prison. 

Insurance Fraud

Insurance Code section 1871.4 makes certain acts unlawful, including fraudulent statements to obtain compensation under the labor code, unlawful acts or statements under the Insurance Code.

Larceny by Trick

Larceny by trick occurs when the defendant gets possession of property by fraud or trickery.  People v. Traster, 111 Cal. App. 4th 1377.  For example, submitting fraudulent billings to insurance companies.

Possession of Burglary Tools

Possession of certain tools with the intention to break into certain structures listed in the penal code is a misdemeanor.  Penal Code section 466 lists twelve such tools including picklock, crow, keybit, crowbar, screwdriver and vise grip pliers.

Receiving Stolen Property

Every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in a manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained is guilty of the offense of receiving stolen property.  Penal Code section 496(a)  A person who conceals, sells, or withholds, or who aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen or obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, is also guilty of receiving stolen property.  Penal Code section 496(a)  Defenses to receiving stolen property include intoxication or mental disorders or the mistaken belief that the property was abandoned, using a mistake of fact defense.  Whether the defendant had actual knowledge is a question for the court. 


Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another from his or her person or immediate presence, and against her or her will, accomplished by means of forcer or fear.  First degree robberies are ones perpetrated in an inhabited dwelling and other places such as vehicles and also ATMs, and second degree robberies are committed elsewhere.  Penal Code section 212.5(a), (b).


Shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).  Penal Code section 459.5(a).  With some exceptions, shoplifting is punishable as a misdemeanor. 

Unlawful Taking of a Vehicle

Theft of an automobile is grand theft under Penal Code section 487(d)(1).  Under Vehicle Code section 10851, taking a vehicle without consent of the owner is punishable by not more than one year in the county jail.

Client Reviews

I am so glad that I found Ed Ramirez. Last year I hired a moving company to transport my household good across country. I had countless problems with that company involving amount due and date of delivery. Ed...


I received a serious bite from a neighbor's dog. The dog's owner assured me that his insurance would cover all my medical expenses. But when I tried to contact him after the incident, he was either unavailable...


Mr. Ramirez reviewed the arrest report, subpoenaed and reviewed evidence, researched the case with expert witnesses, discussed the case repeatedly with the district attorney, made a low counter-offer, and...


Contact Us Now

Edward M. Ramirez Attorney

Free Consultation (909) 253-2770