Misdemeanor Guide

Petty Theft Misdemeanors

Theft is when a person takes someone else's property with the plan to permanently keep it from them. There are two different classifications for theft dependant on the value, type of property and how it was stolen. They are Grand Theft and Petty Theft.

When caught for theft the first question the court will determine is what the total value of the items take was. If it is less than four hundred dollars it is usually classified as petty theft. Petty theft is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to a maximum of six months in a county jail.

Can be Robbery
There are some cases where a simple shoplifting/petty theft can be turned into a robbery at the time of conviction. If when the person took the items they used force or a way to instill fear then it can carry much higher fines and be charged as a felony which then carries up to 5 years in a state prison.

A petty theft crime which is charged as a misdemeanor may seem easy and inexpensive. It is imperative to try and protect your rights because this charge will follow you. It not only shows weakness from what may have been one bad choice in the past but it can inhibit you from certain jobs and when obtaining a new residence. If you have future occurrences with breaking laws, judges will and can take into account any of your past charges when determining what range to fine you and how long to sentence you for.

If you are caught and charged for a second petty theft, they can charge you with what is considered petty theft with a prior. This can be charged as a misdemeanor which can carry a sentence of up to one year in the county jail or it can be charged as a felony and have up to three years in prison.

What to do if you are suspected of petty theft
If you are faced with the unfortunate situation of being questioned for theft it is important to remember your rights. You do not have to answer any questions from the security guard or police officer. You do have the right to remain silent and request to speak with your attorney. In order for the prosecution to charge you they have to be able to prove a specific intent to steal. You are innocent until proven guilty.

You can contact your local legal aid clinic to find out additional information on the process and enable you to understand your rights. Make sure to contact a local professional who is aggressively ready to defend your rights and has real life practice with your type of situation. They may be able to get your fines reduced and keep you from doing jail time if you are charged with a misdemeanor. Or they may be able to have your charges reduced to an infraction which is a minor violation of a law with only a fine imposed or even have your case dismissed.

Appealing the charge
If you are charged with a guilty verdict you do have the right to appeal your conviction if you do not agree with the outcome. You will definitely want to talk to an attorney for this (which is a good idea whether you have been charged, sentenced or are trying to expunge your charge).