Last month celebrity bad boy Andy Dick was arrested for grand theft for allegedly stealing a $1000.00 necklace off a man’s neck. (see http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/08/us-usa-andydick-arrest-idUSKBN0IS0QZ20141108.) With the passing of Prop 47 in California, such theft would still be considered a felony as the value of the property is more than $950.00 making the crime eligible to be charged as a felony. Whether you’re a celebrity or a person facing felony charges in California for the first time, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can defend against felony charges which could have such negative consequences as prison or jail time.
Grand Theft versus Robbery in California
When looking at the facts of the Andy Dick case he should be considered fortunate if he avoids of charges of Robbery. Pursuant to California Penal Code section 211, a person commits a robbery when the following elements are proved beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1. The accused took property that was not (his/her) own;
2. The property was taken from another’s possession and immediate presence;
3. The property was taken against the will of another person;
4. The accused used force or fear to take property or to prevent the person from resisting;
5. When the accused used fear or force to take property, they intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently and/or to remove the property from another’s possession for such an extended a period of time that the owner of the property would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property.
The accused’s intent to take the property of another must have been formed before or during the time the accused used force or fear. If the accused did not form the required intent until after using the force or fear, then they cannot be convicted of robbery.
In the case of Andy Dick, if more than incidental force was used to take the necklace in question, there may be a basis for a robbery charge. Although most persons are familiar with robberies involving weapons such as guns, the use of a smaller amount of force is often charged as a robbery. In the California appellate court case of People v. Estes (1983) 147 Cal.App.3d 23 , 194 Cal.Rptr. 909, the Court of Appeal found that a shoplifter is guilty of the crime of robbery if they use force or fear to escape a store after the taking of the property. However, the law in California is clear that the force necessary to be convicted of a robbery such as in the Estes case must be more than the incidental touching necessary to take the property as explained in People v. Garcia (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1246 [53 Cal.Rptr.2d 256] [California Court of Appeal found that the force employed by a pickpocket would be insufficient].
In many cases where little force is used to take property from another, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction of charges to a grand or petty theft depending on the value of the property.
Grand Theft versus Petty Theft Under CA Penal Laws
As mentioned above, with the passage of Proposition 47 in Califor nia, if a person takes property with a value of $950.00 or less, they will only be subject to a misdemeanor charge of theft often referred to as “petty theft.” However, just because a prosecutor may be able to prove that property taken had a value of more than $950.00, there still may be legal defenses or facts available to a skilled criminal defense lawyer which may lead to the reduction of charges to a misdemeanor or a dismissal of charges.
In California whether a defendant is charged in Los Angeles, Orange County or any other county, there are various crimes which are considered theft crimes including but not limited to burglary, embezzlement, check kiting, check forgery fraud, and shoplifting which is considered a second degree burglary. Even if a theft charge is considered a misdemeanor under Prop 47, an accused can often times retain an attorney who can negotiate a “civil compromise.” In a civil compromise, the Defendant agrees to pay victim for property or moneys that have been taken from them. Once a proper civil compromise has been entered, the trial court will dismiss the case in most instances. In a felony matter, if an accused is charged with taking over $950.00, a “civil compromise” can lead to dismissal as long as the defense attorney executes the compromise with the understanding and consent of the district attorney. Civil Compromises i cases where the taking of large amounts of money are involved are more difficult to defend and require an experienced criminal defense lawyer to assess the feasibility of a compromise and all other potential defenses to criminal charges.
Importance of seeking the advice of counsel when facing charges of theft or robbery in California:
The numerous issues involving the defense of theft charges whether it be a grand theft, petty theft or a robbery charge, can be confusing and daunting to a defendant. As such, when facing any such criminal charges, one should always immediately consult with and if possible retain a criminal defense lawyer than can properly defend against all such criminal allegations. GlotzerLaw, PC has extensive experience defending against criminal accusations of theft including robbery other related charges. Our initial consultation is always free and we can be reached in Los Angeles at 310-623-3771.