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Grand Theft Vs. Petty Theft

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A conviction for theft is unique in that it has the ability to stigmatize you as a dishonest or untrustworthy person, thereby jeopardizing your employment and financial future in ways that are more severe than other offenses. Therefore, not only does finding the best legal defense help you avoid incarceration, but it will also help secure your economic viability and survival as a member of society.

Here are the theft-related offenses that can be charged under California law.

Petty Theft

I’ve been charged with petty theft. What’s going to happen to me?

If you have been charged with petty theft, you should know, from the get-go, that there is nothing “petty” about the charge in terms of what consequences you may be facing. In fact, certain circumstances (including the value of the property you are accused of stealing, or a prior related conviction) may exacerbate your punishment. While a first petty theft is classified as a misdemeanor, a second or third petty theft conviction can result in a felony charge against you. This is also known as a petty theft with a prior. It is punishable by one year in the county jail or even 16 months (one year and four months) in state prison.

But it’s just my first offense, so what’s the big deal?

The biggest mistake you can do is to take this lightly. It is true that first offenses are punishable by a relatively low fine and informal probation ranging from one to three years. Here’s where the real trouble begins:

  1. You will have a “stain” on your criminal record that may unleash a financial tidal wave in your life if you cannot find employment and, therefore, pay your bills. A petty theft charge on a job application or business or professional license application will most likely result in a denial of the job or license application. The chain reaction is obvious: you would be unable to meet mortgage payments, utilities, credit card bills and probably basic living expenses.
  2. Consider the nature of a petty theft conviction, which denotes fraud and dishonesty. Figuratively, it would be like having the word “THIEF” on your forehead when you apply for a job or a business/professional license.
  3. You will have just opened the gates to a possible future felony charge should you fall into the temptation of stealing again and getting caught. That’s right. You may think to yourself, “But I’ll never do this again!” But there is no guarantee another mistake won’t be made. And if you do, you’re looking at felony petty theft, the consequences of which make a misdemeanor petty theft look like the proverbial “walk in the park.”

If you hire Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we will do everything possible to minimize your misdemeanor petty theft to an infraction. A traffic ticket would be an example of an infraction; in other words, a non-criminal matter. We have even been able to get charges dismissed in certain cases. However, much like a dismissal, and unlike a misdemeanor conviction, an infraction will NOT appear in your background. If we can get you a dismissal or a reduction to an infraction and you have no criminal record, you will remain “clean” because you will not have been convicted of a crime.

What if this is my second or third petty theft? Really, how much worse can things get?

A second or third theft or shoplifting offense is exponentially worse in terms of what may happen to you. The reason for this is that the prosecution may file felony petty theft charges. Also known as a petty theft with a prior, a felony petty theft conviction may cause you to serve a sentence in the county jail for one year….or even worse, 16 months (that’s One YEAR and 4 MONTHS) in a California State Prison.

Should you make the wise decision to hire Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, we will do everything possible to minimize the charges and the consequences of a misdemeanor petty theft or even a felony petty theft charge.

Grand Theft

I’ve been charged with ‘Grand Theft.’ Is it really serious?

If you stole goods worth more than $400 or money exceeding $400, you committed a serious crime. The District Attorney can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. On top of the court requiring you to pay restitution to the victims, ordering you to attend counseling, forcing you to pay steep fines and court costs, and ordering you to commit seemingly countless hours of your time to grueling community service (including cleaning up the freeway), the court can impose a sentence of state prison for 16 months.

Can’t any criminal lawyer get these charges reduced or my case dismissed?


Finding the right criminal defense attorney is integral and essential to getting the desired outcome in your case. Many defense attorneys have little or no experience in criminal law, even many who have opened their own law practices. When you’re facing the possibility of having your freedom ripped from your life, you can’t afford to hire anything but the best.

Robert Ernenwein is a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, and he knows the criminal process inside and out, which gives him a distinct edge when representing you in court. He is well-respected and well-known by Los Angeles prosecutors and judges.

Mr. Ernenwein has been selected for inclusion in California Super Lawyers for several years, is certified by the California State Bar of Legal Specialization as a Criminal Law Specialist and has been a legal commentator for FOX News.

Since 1987, he has represented clients in over 10,000 criminal cases in Los Angeles courts (including in LAX, Inglewood, Torrance, Long Beach and Compton). He has over 30 years of experience, and 100% of his practice is devoted to criminal law.

If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony for petty theft, you need to call us immediately. It can’t wait.

Is there a consultation fee?

The consultation is free. That’s right. We will meet with you in our office for free to discuss your case with no obligation. When you’re in front of a judge with the power to take your freedom, you simply can’t afford to settle for a lawyer without the level of knowledge and skill of our lawyers. The experience and capabilities that Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, attorneys will bring to your theft defense are unmatched.

Have you or someone you know been arrested for an auto theft charge? Contact Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, Los Angeles and Orange County criminal defense lawyers today at 424-552-3901 for a free case review.