California Penal Code 484 PC

PC 484-488 – Petty Theft

PC 484-488 - Petty Theft

Petty Theft – Table of Contents

PC 484-488 Petty Theft

Petty Theft, CA Penal Code 484 PC, is defined by the state as anyone who steals or takes somebody else’s property (up to $950), for any amount of time, and deprives them of potential enjoyment or value of that property.

It’s important to note that firearms, livestock, and vehicles do not fall under CA Penal Code 484 but are treated as grand theft, CA Penal Code 487. Any property taken directly from a person (i.e. robbing) is also treated as grand theft.

A fundamental element of PC 484-488 petty theft & shoplifting is that a defendant deprives the properties owner of potential enjoyment or value. This is important because it eliminates the loophole of returning stolen property and not being punished. In other words, if somebody steals a CD from a store, they are not only stealing the store’s property but also a means for them to make money.

Looking for Shoplifting?

See: California PC 459.5 ‘Shoplifting’

Sentencing for PC 484, Petty Theft

Petty theft in California is a misdemeanor. If a defendant is found guilty and convicted of PC 484-488 petty theft & shoplifting they could face:

  • Up to six (6) months in county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Informal probation

Often times, if PC 484-488 petty theft & shoplifting is a defendant’s first theft related crime they will usually serve little to no jail time. In addition, if it is a defendant’s first theft related crime and the stolen property is valued at $50 or less it is possible to have the crime reduced to an infraction. If the crime is reduced to an infraction a defendant could face:

  • Up to $250 in fines
  • Community service
  • Anti-theft classes
  • Compensation to the owner of the stolen property

Prosecuting for PC 484, Petty Theft

Because PC 484-488 petty theft crimes are typically associated with shoplifting there can be strong evidence against a defendant, namely, video surveillance, eye witnesses and police reports. Often times a prosecutor can build a strong case with these pieces of evidence and it then becomes a bargaining act between the prosecutor and the defense.

If a bargain cannot be reached between the two parties then the case will eventually go to court. It then becomes the prosecutor’s responsibility to show the evidence that he or she has acquired and prove to the court that a defendant did in fact steal someone’s property. However, a trial rarely happens in petty theft cases.

Defending PC 484, Petty Theft

Lack of Intent

Criminal IntentThere are a few common strategies that defense attorneys use to prove that their clients don’t deserve a CA Penal Code 484 conviction. One approach that defense attorneys take is to prove that a defendant did not intend to steal any property. There has to be some intent in order for the incident to be considered a crime, without any intent there cannot be a conviction.

For example, perhaps a man is shopping for a shirt at a department store and while he’s shopping he gets upsetting news on the phone. Without thinking, the man walks out of the store in order to hear the phone call more clearly and forgets the shirts were draped over his shoulders, moments later he is confronted by police and arrested for PC 484-488 petty theft . According to the law, this incident cannot result in a CA PC 484-488 conviction because the man did not intend to steal the shirts.

Existing Evidence

Another approach that criminal defense attorneys can take is to prove that the “stolen” property belonged to the defendant. In other words, if the defendant “stole” something that already belonged to himself or herself then he or she cannot be found guilty. The attorney in this type of case has to the gather the necessary evidence to prove that the property did, in fact, belong to the defendant. Once that has been proven, a conviction should not take place.


Criminal defense attorneys can prove that a defendant had consent to take property. If a defendant had consent to take a specific piece of property then he or she should not be guilty of PC 484-488 petty theft & shoplifting. However, if the defendant knowingly took something that he or she wasn’t consented to take then a petty theft & shoplifting conviction will take place.

False Accusation

The final approach that a criminal defense attorney can take is to prove that a defendant was wrongfully accused of PC 484-488 petty theft. If the defendant was the victim of a wrongful arrest or was framed by somebody else then he or she should not be convicted. Again, it then becomes the responsibility of the criminal defense attorney to prove the wrongful arrest and get the case dropped.

petty theft & shoplifting PC 484-488 convictions can be difficult to fight on your own due to the intimidating nature of the courts and prosecutors. It can be extremely beneficial to utilize a criminal defense attorney to get your charges reduced or your cases dropped.

We Want to Help

If you or a loved one is being charged with PC 484, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and we will get in contact with you ASAP. We can provide a free consultation in our office located in Century City, or by phone. Our experienced and assiduous Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys will be sure to fight until the end to reduce or drop your charges completely.

Call Us for a FREE Case Review: 310-274-6529

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Esfandi Law Group
Lara S.
June 4, 2018
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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