Property crimes fall into two categories of criminal activities, including theft-related and non-theft-related offenses. Criminal acts that don’t count as theft and involve only property destruction include arson, trespass, and vandalism.

On the other hand, property crimes that involve willingly taking someone else’s property without permission and with plans to deny the owner its benefits permanently include theft, burglary, robbery, and shoplifting. These offenses attract both felony and misdemeanor charges depending on the characteristics of the violation and your criminal history.

If you have been accused of any offense involving property theft or destruction in Pasadena, it’s in your best interest to retain legal counsel because of the consequences that may result from a conviction. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have highlighted various property crimes and their penalties to help you understand the type of charge you face and the impact of a conviction for the same.

PEN 594(a) - Vandalism

Vandalism is outlined as per PEN 594(a) as unlawful behavior with the potential to cause California millions of dollars annually in cleaning-up and might result in psychological and emotional harm to the property owners. PC 594(a) describes multiple behaviors, usually deliberately intended to destroy, deface or change someone else’s property. The actions that could result in PC 594(a) violation are:

  • Spray painting someone else’s property with the intent to deface it
  • Scratching paint off another person’s vehicle
  • Defacing park benches
  • Destroying another person’s property using hands or feet
  • Breaking another individual’s windows
  • Altering or pulling down street lights

Additionally, you could be arrested for vandalism because possessing vandalism means like glass-cutter in particular situations.

PC 594(a) exists to protect against hate crimes, destruction of property, and public places. In addition, the statute exists against conduct directed towards minority or religious groups like writing sexist graffiti or vandalizing a church.

In California, the punishment imposed for a vandalism conviction depends on the cost of the property damaged. If the cost of the damages is valued at $400 or greater, the offense is a wobbler. The court will sentence you to jail custody ranging from twelve to thirty-six months and pay monetary court fines amounting to $10,000 for a felony conviction. 

Similarly, if the damage caused ranges from $400 to $10,000, a conviction will result in court fines of as much as $10,000 or $50,000 if the property damage was ten thousand dollars or more. The punishment upon conviction is lesser when the property damaged is worth up to $400 because the offense is filed as a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you will spend no more than a year in jail and a monetary fine of up to one thousand dollars. However, even if the property is worth less than $400, but you are a repeat offender, you will face at most $5,000 court fines. 

Besides, you will face additional consequences if you obtain an additional charge on top of vandalism. For instance, you deface or alter another person’s property for the benefit of a criminal gang. In that case, you will face gang enhancement associated with lengthy jail incarcerations and massive monetary fines.

When it comes to these cases, you must work closely with a criminal defense lawyer to explore alternative sentencing options. You don’t want to spend years behind bars, and your legal counsel can help avoid the jail term by recommending probation in place of jail.

If you have been convicted for a misdemeanor, the lawyer may request the court grant informal or summary probation instead of spending twelve months in jail. The conditions of the probation include:

  • Driver’s license suspension for a period not exceeding 24 months or up to 36 months of delay in eligibility for a driver’s license if you are yet to obtain one
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Community labor which involves repairing and cleaning the property destroyed
  • Ensuring the property in question or another property is free of graffiti for no more than twelve months.

PEN 451 - Arson

California PEN 451 outlines the offense of arson as the willful and malicious setting of fire on someone else’s property, structure, or forest land. The type of arson you will be charged with depends on the malicious damage of property, causing great bodily harm at the time of the trespass or death. Typically, the offense is charged as a felony depending on the property burned and whether an individual sustained injuries or loss of life.

If the victim(s) of the crime sustained great bodily harm, the court would sentence you to five, seven, or nine years in state prison. In addition, you may be required to register as a lifetime arsonist.

Arson on an inhabited structure or property will attract 36, 60, or 96 months in prison. When arson is committed on forest land, you will face up to seventy-two months in prison. For personal property, arson may result in 16, 24, or 36 months of prison incarceration.

Note that even if you attempt setting a property on fire but your efforts were unsuccessful, you will still face attempted arson charges whose conviction attracts between 16 to 36 months in prison. If someone loses their life because of your offense, you will face murder charges and must register as a lifetime arsonist.

Moreover, arson is a crime of moral wickedness, meaning that if you are an immigrant and the court finds you guilty, you risk deportation or being labeled inadmissible.

PC 602 - Trespassing

According to PEN 602, trespassing is gaining access or remaining in another individual’s property without consent or right to do so. The ordinary acts criminalized under this statute are:

  • Illegal access of another person’s property with plans to destroy property
  • Illegal access of someone else’s property to interfere o disrupt daily operations
  • Illegally accessing and remaining on someone’s property without consent
  • Refusing to leave private property after being asked to do so

Other actions that might count as trespass include turning down screening at an airport, removing oysters from someone’s land, or taking dirt or stones from someone else’s land without consent.

The offense of trespass is highly sophisticated, but there are particular aspects of the offense that give a clear definition of the offense. These elements are:

  • You wittingly accessed another person’s property
  • At the time of the illegal access, you planned on disrupting or interfering with the individual’s property rights.
  • In the real sense, you destroyed the person’s property or disrupted regular business

Trespass can be charged as an infraction, misdemeanor, or in rare cases, a felony. When convicted for a misdemeanor, the penalties include:

  • Informal probation
  • No more than half a year in jail custody
  • At most, one thousand dollars monetary court fine

Note that the sentence can increase to twelve months in jail if, at the time of the trespass, you refused to leave a battered women's shelter after being asked to do so.

If you wittingly access another person’s property illegally or without consent, and the land is fenced or has “no trespassing” signs placed at intervals or at least three miles, you will face infraction charges. A guilty verdict for this offense attracts $75 for a first offender and $250 for a second offender on the same piece of property.

Trespass is deemed a felony or aggravated if you make a credible threat to inflict harm on someone else with the intent to place the safety or that of the close of the individual’s family under threat. Within thirty days of the threat, you illegally access the person’s property or place of work to act on the threats.

If these circumstances apply in your case, you will face aggravated trespass, which is a wobbler. When prosecuted as a misdemeanor, the offense can attract a sentence not exceeding twelve months and court fines of at most $2,000.

When prosecuted as a felony, aggravated trespass attracts county jail incarceration for 16, 24, or 36 months. You can avoid this jail incarceration by requesting the court to grant formal probation. However, to achieve this, you must work closely with a competent criminal lawyer.

Also, an experienced legal counsel will come up with solid defense strategies to contest the charges. The defense strategies that you can mount during these charges include:

  • You had the right to access the property
  • You didn’t purpose on causing damage on the property
  • You lacked knowledge that you lacked the rights to access the property
  • You were exercising your constitutional right of freedom to assemble peacefully for a protest

The goal of trespassing laws is to protect people’s ownership rights on property and ensure little or no disruption on daily activities in the property. If you can prove your actions were in no way intended to violate these property rights, you will successfully contest trespassing charges.

PEN 495.5 - Shoplifting

According to California PEN 495.5, it is illegal to gain access to an open commercial establishment during business hours to leave the establishment with property worth at most $950 without paying.

For you to be held responsible for shoplifting, the prosecutor must prove that you had the intent to take items from an open store or business establishment and leave without paying. If you took an item inside a store but with no plans of leaving without paying, you won’t be liable for shoplifting. So, if there is the element of intent in the offense, whether it is coupled by actual action or not, the court will find you guilty.

The offense of PC 495.5 violation is a misdemeanor whose conviction risks a possible jail term not exceeding half a year and monetary court fines of up to $1,000. If you have a competent legal team, they could request that the court grant misdemeanor probation as a substitute for jail, a more lenient sentence.

It’s worth noting that if you have a previous criminal history, your shoplifting offense will be categorized as a felony punishable by as much as $10,000 court fines and a jail term of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months. The court considers the following prior records to file a shoplifting offense as a felony:

  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Any sex crime that with a condition of sex offender registration
  • A sex offense committed against a child
  • Solicitation to commit homicide
  • Attempted homicide
  • Being found with a weapon of mass destruction
  • Assault of a peace officer

If you have been apprehended for shoplifting, you must wonder if the prosecutor will introduce additional charges like burglary, petty, or grand theft on the shoplifting charge. Luckily, PEN 495.5 clarifies that if you face shoplifting charges, you can’t face other theft or burglary charges for the same property.

It’s worth noting that before the passage of Prop 47, entering a commercial establishment to take merchandise whose value doesn’t exceed $950 with intent to leave without paying was charged as a felony burglary offense. However, after enactment of the Proposition, if you enter business premises during operating hours planning to steal property valued at $950 or less, you will face a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. So, under the new proposition, what was commercial or 2nd-degree burglary is currently a misdemeanor shoplifting offense.

A shoplifting charge isn’t the end of the road for you. With the help of legal counsel, you can contest the charges, the possible consequences of the offense or obtain a charge reduction. The defense your lawyer can mount to contest the charges are:

  • When you gained access to the commercial establishment, you never purposed to steal merchandise. Without the element of intent in your actions, the court will find you not guilty of a shoplifting offense.
  • You are a victim of false allegations of mistaken identity
  • You face the charges because of inadequate investigations, racial profiling, or fabricated evidence

PC 459 - Burglary

Burglary is a form of property theft that occurs when you enter a commercial or residential establishment with plans to commit a felony once inside. Use of physical power or threats is not a mandatory element when it comes to these charges. Further, you don’t need to cause any property damage to face the charges. The only element the prosecutor must demonstrate is you gained access to another person’s property, planning to commit a theft.

Under PEN 459, a burglary offense is a wobbler, and the DA has the discretion to file it as a felony or misdemeanor based on the case’s characteristics. In addition, the crime of burglary falls into two classes which include; 1st degree and 2nd degree.

You will face 1st-degree burglary charges if you gain access into an inhabited residential property to engage in a felony. Even if nobody were present in the property at entry, the offense would be charged as a 1st degree if the structure is inhabited.  If the court finds you guilty of this burglary category, you will face felony penalties of 24, 48, or 72 months in state prison. There is no alternative to the prison sentence because the court doesn’t grant probation in place of prison incarceration for this offense.

On the other hand, when you illegally enter a commercial property or any building that isn’t a residence, a 2nd-degree burglary happens. The offense is also called commercial burglary, and it could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted for a misdemeanor, you may face at most twelve months in county jail. However, for a felony, the punishment is sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months prison incarceration.

A conviction for any of these offenses doesn’t come so quickly. The prosecuting team must demonstrate to the judge or jury beyond reasonable certainty that you had unlawful access to someone else’s property, with plans to steal or commit another felony once you gain access to the property. Entry is an easy element to prove because the prosecutor must show that you were inside someone’s property.

However, proving intent is the most challenging part because it’s hard to explain what was going through your mind when you entered the structure. In these cases, the prosecutor relies on the tools you possessed at the time of entry to demonstrate intent. Therefore, if you possessed tools used for burglaries like blow torches or pliers, these could be enough evidence to show your plan to commit a felony or theft once inside another person’s property, whether residential or commercial.

Grand Theft

When you engage in theft of property, labor, or money worth at least $950, you are said to have committed grand theft as per PEN 482. The definition of this offense under the law is dependent on critical facts, which are the elements the prosecutor must demonstrate during prosecution. These aspects of the offense depend on the way the crime happens.

Grand theft happens through larceny when you obtain another individual's property, without express consent from the owner, with plans to dispossess the holder of it permanently or long enough to deprive the owner of its benefits. Further, it must be clear you moved the property for some distance and held it for some time.

Similarly, grand theft can occur by way of false pretenses. Here, the prosecuting team must show that it willingly made a false pretense like:

  • Deceiving another person
  • Giving an untrue promise with no intention of honoring it
  • Made a false statement
  • Provided incorrect info.

Further, they must show you utilized the false pretenses to convince someone else to transfer ownership of their property. The property owner depended on this info to transfer possession or ownership.

Also, grand theft can occur employing trick or embezzlement. If the prosecutor proves all the elements of the crime, you will face a misdemeanor or felony charge depending on your criminal history and the facts of the case. If charged as a misdemeanor, a conviction attracts no more than 12 months in jail.

On the other hand, if the charge is a felony when found guilty, you risk formal probation for up to twelve months and 16, 24, or 36 months in jail.

However, if the offense involves using a firearm, it becomes a felony whose sentence is no more than 36 months prison incarceration.

Petty Theft

Petty theft is outlined under PC 484 as theft of property, labor, or money worth up to $950. The offense is less severe compared to grand theft, and the difference between the two is on the worth of property stolen. Under PEN 484, the prosecutor has four crucial elements they must prove. These are:

  • You possessed property belonging to someone else
  • You gained possession without express permission from the owner
  • When you acquired the property, you planned to deprive the owner of it permanently
  • And you moved the property or held it for some time however brief

Petty theft can occur by way of larceny, trick, fraud, and embezzlement.

Many shoplifting offenses in Pasadena are filed as petty theft, although you can always contest the petty theft charge if the DA cannot demonstrate you obtained the item with plans to steal.

You can fight the charge by asserting you took the merchandise in the store intending to pay, but you forgot to pay on your way out. You can argue you were absent-minded as the reason for failure to recall to pay. Alternatively, you could claim the item belonged to you, or you had express permission from the owner to possess it.

If found guilty of this offense, you risk a potential jail sentence not exceeding half a year. Alternatively, the court could grant misdemeanor probation for up to thirty-six months. Also, the court can order you to pay monetary fines of at most one thousand dollars.

Note that if you are a first-time offender and the offense in question involves property worth at most $50, the petty theft charge will be reduced to an infraction, whose punishment is a monetary fine of a maximum of $250. However, if the worth of the property is not less than $50, you will still face jail incarceration.

A competent criminal lawyer can come to your defense during these charges by asserting that you never purposed to steal. Instead, you were absent-minded and forgot to pay. Besides, you can argue that you reasonably believed the property was yours, therefore lacking the intent to steal.

Find an Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Property crimes are serious offenses whose decisions can’t be taken lightly without seeking legal counsel from a competent lawyer. A profound lawyer in Pasadena will evaluate your case, find strengths and weaknesses, look for possible defenses, and guide you accordingly. Reach out to Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm today at 626-628-0564 if you want to protect your rights and freedom.