Theft Crimes in Pasadena: What You Need to Know

Pasadena and Los Angeles theft lawyer Ann Gottesman is experienced in handling all types of theft crimes. Some theft offenses are misdemeanors and some are felonies. Yet, many theft offenses are “wobblers”, which means the District Attorney, in his or her discretion, can charge you either with a misdemeanor or a felony. Some of the considerations used in determining how to file these crimes are: the value of what was taken, the seriousness of the conduct, whether there are prior convictions, etc…

Theft crimes are vigorously prosecuted in Pasadena and most other Los Angeles County cities, and a conviction for a theft related offense can have dire consequences on a person’s freedom, career, immigration status, family and future job prospects.  The Pasadena City Prosecutor and District Attorney have recently focused more of their resources on prosecuting theft related crimes, as the number of incidents have risen. Some speculate that the difficult economy in California has spurred the increase in shoplifting and more serious fraud and other theft crimes in Los Angeles and Pasadena. Luckily however, recent changes in the law have given first time theft crime offenders opportunities they once did not have---a reduction of certain felony theft offenses to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47, and the chance to earn a full dismissal of their theft charges under California Penal Code section 1001.94.

PETTY THEFT OR SHOPLIFTING: explained by Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Ann Gottesman

In most cases, if it is your first offense, and the property alleged to have been stolen is valued at less than $400, you will be charged with a petty theft (such as shoplifting), which is punishable by a small fine and 1 to 3 years of informal probation. In many cases, a first offense can be reduced to an infraction, which means you will NOT have a criminal record.

If a person picks up multiple shoplifting offenses, the consequences can be much more serious because the DA has the discretion to charge you with Felony, and they usually do. Such a charge is called a “petty theft with a prior”, and is punishable by up to 3 years in the state prison. (When a person steals from a business such as a store, and there is evidence that the person entered the business with the intent to steal, the prosecution will often charge a person with commercial burglary, which is explained below.)

GRAND THEFT: explained by Pasadena Theft Lawyer

When a person steals property that is valued over $400, or money exceeding $400, it is a serious offense and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

With Grand Theft, your penalties can range and include the following:

  • County jail time up to 3 years in state prison
  • Probation or parole
  • Restitution (paying back victims for their loss)
  • Fines
  • Community Service, CalTrans or Work Release
  • Home detention in lieu of jail

New change to the law effective January 1, 2011:

Property Value for Grand Theft: Prior to January 1st, 2011, a person could not be convicted of grand theft unless the value of the property stolen was at least $450. However, the dollar amount of the stolen property has been increased as of January 1, 2011 to a new threshold amount of$950. Grand theft can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. Before 2011, a District Attorney could charge a person with a felony if the value of the stolen goods was $450 or more. The new law now requires the stolen goods be worth at least $950 before it can be charged as a felony. If the stolen goods are valued at less than $950, then it is petty theft. However, if a person has prior theft offenses on his or her criminal record, then even if the stolen property is less than $950, the DA can charge the theft as a felony. This is often called “petty theft with priors”. As a Los Angeles and Pasadena criminal defense attorney, I have successfully represented many clients in misdemeanor and felony theft offenses.


When a person enters a store or business with the intent to steal, they have committed a Burglary. There is First Degree Burglary (when a person enters an inhabited dwelling like a home), and Second Degree Burglary (entering a business or any uninhabited dwelling). First Degree Residential Burglary is much more serious because it is often filed as a Strike, and has a punishment ranging from 2 to 6 years in the state prison. Second Degree Burglary carries a prison sentence of 16 months to 3 years in state prison.

A person who has prior felony convictions, strikes or prison priors, can find themselves in big trouble when they are charged with a new theft offense. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense and theft attorney like Ann Gottesman can make sure you are properly represented, and can often get probation and counseling for repeat offenders (see my Case Results page). There are many options to explore, such as motions (motion to strike prior conviction, reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, etc…), psychological evaluation, investigation of witnesses and evidence, etc…



Under California Penal Code section 211, Robbery is defined as, “the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

Robbery is a felony offense and punishable in the state prison by two to nine years, depending upon whether the District Attorney charged the defendant with a first degree or a second degree robbery.

first degree robbery is the most serious type of robbery. First degree robberies apply to those robberies committed against drivers or passengers in a commercial vehicle, robberies committed in an inhabited dwelling, such as a home, and robberies committed against people who are using or have just finished using an ATM.

If convicted of a first degree robbery, the penalty is three, four, or six years in the state prison. However, if you and two or more others robbed an inhabited dwelling, you will face three, six or nine years in the state prison.

Second degree robbery is any robbery that is not a first degree robbery. The penalty of a second degree robbery is two, three or five years in state prison.

Robbery is considered a serious and violent felony under the law, making it a Strike. Also, the penalties for a robbery can be much more than the standard sentence if there were aggravated factors, such as if a weapon was used, if the robbery was gang related, or if the victim was injured.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove for You to Be Convicted of Robbery-
Elements of the Offense:

There are many defenses to the charge of first or second degree robbery. But to be convicted of a robbery, the prosecutor has the burden of proving the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The property you took did not belong to you,
  2. You took the property from another person's possession or immediate presence,
  3. It was against that person's will,
  4. You were using force or threats, and
  5. When you took the property, you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or for such an extended period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.

It is important to understand that robbery, unlike grand theft or other theft offenses, is not concerned with the dollar value of the item(s). So, for example, the item taken in a robbery could be something as small as a stick of gum.

THE ELEMENTS FOR THE CRIME OF ROBBERY (PC 211): explained by Pasadena Theft Attorney

As you can see from above, the prosecution must prove 5 elements before a Defendant can be convicted of a robbery

  1. The first element requires the prosecution prove that the Defendant gained possession of the victim’s property and carried it away. “Carrying it away” means that the Defendant actually has to move the property some distance away from the victim, even if it is a very short distance. Returning the property to the victim, even if done so immediately after the taking, is not a defense to this crime.
  2. The second element requires the District Attorney prove the property actually or constructively belonged to the victim. This means the victim either owned the property that was taken, or was in possession of it at the time of the taking. So the victim has to have a possessory interest in the property taken. The second element also has a requirement that the property have been in the “immediate presence” of the victim when the Defendant took it. In other words, the property, if not physically on the victim’s person, must be within reach of the victim, such that the property still would have logically been in the victim’s control if he had not been forced to relinquish that control as a result of the robbery.
  3. The third element states that the Defendant must be shown to have taken the property “against the person’s will”, meaning the victim did not consent to the taking. But this does not mean that the victim has to be aware that his property is being taken at the time of the robbery. (Ex: The victim can realize after a struggle with his wallet that the robber had also taken the gold chain that had been on his neck. Even though the victim didn’t realize his chain was taken until after the robber fled, the robber could still be prosecuted for robbery of the chain.).
  4. The fourth element requires the District Attorney prove that the victim was induced to relinquish his or her property as a result of the Defendant using force or fear. So, a Defendant who verbally or physically threatens the victim with harm to the victim’s person, property, or to another person present during the incident, would qualify as using fear. Force can be shown if the Defendant physically takes the victim’s property by overcoming the victim’s resistance. Force or fear can even be sufficient for a robbery if the victim initially gave the property to the Defendant but then the Defendant used force or fear to keep the property. For example, if a Defendant says to the victim “Can I see your beautiful watch?” The victim gives the Defendant the watch to look at but then the Defendant pulls out a knife and says, “I’m taking this watch and if you try to stop me, I will kill you.” This could be charged as a robbery even though the Defendant’s initial possession of the watch was legal with the victim’s consent!

If any one of the elements is not supported by the evidence then the accused is not guilty of committing a robbery. There are many legal defenses to the crime of robbery. Some of these defenses include the defense of “claim of right”, identity, lack of force or fear, and of course, an alleged victim can falsely accuse a person of committing a robbery. There may be other defenses to the crime of robbery that a good criminal defense lawyer can present when representing you in court.

It is important if you or someone you care about was arrested or charged for committing a robbery, in violation of Penal Code section 211, that you immediately contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Other Theft offenses include:

  • Forgery
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Embezzlement
  • Larceny
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Check Fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Insurance Fraud
  • Medical Fraud
  • Counterfeit Crimes
  • Internet Theft

If you are charged with a theft crime in Los Angeles or Pasadena, it is important you immediately contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer so he or she can evaluate your case to determine what kind of defense to prepare on your behalf.  Attorney Ann Gottesman is experienced in representing those accused of theft crimes, and has obtained many positive results for her clients, such as probation or a dismissal, that at first glance did not seem possible.

Your freedom and reputation are too important to leave in the hands of an inexperienced attorney.  Call now to speak to Ann about your case.