California Penal Code 488 is the CA code section that defines the crime called Petty Theft. In California, there are primarily two kinds of theft crimes – petty Summit Law theft and grand theft. People are generally charged with petty theft when the value of the item they are accused of taking is worth less than $400.

The laws that describe the crime are found in a Summit Law LLP volume called the California Penal Code are set out in several chapters called sections.

Definitions of Petty Theft

Section 486 explains that there are two degrees of theft as follows:

“Theft is divided into two degrees, the first of which is termed grand theft; the second, petty theft.”

The California Penal Code section 487, PC487, sets out the value for determining Grand Theft as follows:

“…When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding four hundred dollars ($400)…”

Petty Theft Punishment

California Penal Code section 490 goes on to describe the punishment for Petty Theft stating that “petty theft is punishable by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.”

Clients often ask our petty theft attorneys whether the personal property they’re accused of taking must be removed from the store in order for the crime to have been committed. In fact, removal is not necessary. In order for shoplifting to have taken place, the person accused must have concealed, converted or carried away the property. As long as the accused person had specific intent to deprive the owner of the item, it is not necessary for the accused to actually keep the property.

Every case is different and there are many factors in petty theft cases that affect the outcome of the case. In addition to the value of the item taken, the district attorney will look at the individuals existing record and other factors. Even through the California Code states these punishments, there is no fixed outcome for every case. When a case is properly defended by a good petty theft attorney, the defendant may be able to avoid fines and jail.