CA Penal Code 666
Petty Theft with a Prior
Petty Theft with a Prior Charge
Petty theft with a prior, CA Penal Code 666, can elevate the small crime of petty theft to a felony and could potentially lead to 3-years in state prison. In order to be convicted of petty theft with a prior you need to first be convicted of petty theft, for a full understanding of petty theft read our CA Penal Code 484 article.
The legal definition of CA Penal Code 666 is as follows:
- That you have qualifying prior convictions of theft crimes
- That you served time in jail or prison because of those convictions
In order to have a qualifying prior conviction you must have been convicted of at least one of the following theft crimes:
- Petty Theft , CA Penal Code 484
- Grand Theft , CA Penal Code 488
- Grand Theft Auto, CA Penal Code 487
- Burglary , CA Penal Code 459
- Carjacking , CA Penal Code 215
- Robbery , CA Penal Code 211
- Receiving Stolen Property, CA Penal Code 496
It’s important to note that being charged with the crime does not warrant a qualifying conviction, you must actually be convicted.
Simply having one conviction of the crimes listed above will not qualify you for the more harsh sentencing of CA Penal Code 666. In order to be eligible for the sentence enhancement you need to either:
- Have three or more convictions of the crimes listed above, or
- Have one conviction of the crimes listed above, and either:
- A sex crime conviction that makes you register as a sex offender in accordance to CA Penal Code 290
- A prior conviction for a serious or violent crime
CA Penal Code 666 is a wobbler, meaning it can be tried as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal record.
If the prosecutor finds that you are eligible for CA Penal Code 666 and you get convicted of the crime as a misdemeanor then you will face:
- Up to 1-year in county jail
If you are convicted of a felony then you will face:
- Up to 3-years in county jail
The reason the sentencing for petty theft, which is often shoplifting, is enhanced so much under CA Penal Code 666 is because it is used to keep repeat criminals off the streets.
Prosecuting Petty Theft with a Prior Charge
In order to be tried for CA Penal Code 666 the prosecutor must prove that you are eligible for the crime enhancement. This can either be performed during your trial for your petty theft conviction or during another trial. If the prosecutor wants to have two different trials in front of two different juries then he/she will request a bifurcated trial.
It’s important to note that the prosecutor firstly has to prove that you guilty of petty theft and then he/she can advance the trial to your petty theft with a prior allegations.
To understand how the prosecutor will prove you are guilty read Prosecuting Petty Theft in the petty theft article.
Defending Petty Theft with a Prior Charge
It is your attorneys job to prove your innocence of the petty theft charges filed against you. If your attorney can prove that your innocent of the smaller crime of petty theft then you will not be eligible for the penalty enhancement of petty theft with a prior.
To understand how your attorney will prove you’re innocent of petty theft read Defending Petty Theft in the petty theft article.
 (a) Notwithstanding Section 490, every person who, having been convicted three or more times of petty theft, grand theft, auto theft under Section 10851 of the Vehicle Code, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or a felony violation of Section 496 and having served a term therefor in any penal institution or having been imprisoned therein as a condition of probation for that offense, is subsequently convicted of petty theft, then the person convicted of that
subsequent offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 490, any person described in paragraph (1) who, having been convicted of petty theft, grand theft, auto theft under Section 10851 of the Vehicle Code, burglary, carjacking, robbery, or a felony violation of Section 496, and having served a term of imprisonment therefor in any penal institution or having been imprisoned therein as a condition of probation for that offense, who is subsequently convicted of petty theft, is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison.
(1) This subdivision shall apply to any person who is required to register pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act, or who has a prior violent or serious felony conviction, as specified in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7.
(2) This subdivision shall not be construed to preclude prosecution or punishment pursuant to subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, of Section 667, or Section 1170.12.