top of page

Theft by False Pretenses
PC 532(a) Law & Defense

Information on the crime of theft by false pretenses is found at California penal code section 532. Basically, theft by false pretenses means lying to another person in order for that other person to relinquish property or labor. The criminal charge of theft by false pretenses is filed as PC 532/484(a) or 532/487(a).

PC 32 Law & Definition

PC 532: Every person who knowingly defrauds another person out of money, labor, or property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely his or her gain possession of money or property or services of another, is guilty of theft by false pretenses (PC 532 Abbrev. & Summarized)

In order for the district attorney to prove that the defendant committed theft by false pretenses he or she must prove all of the following:

  • The defendant wrote by hand, or signed, a writing that included materially false information, or an omission of material information, and

  • The defendant knew that the representation in the writing, or omission of information in the writing, rendered the writing was false, and

  • The defendant presented the writing with the false representations or omissions to another person with the intent to persuade that person to relinquish property based on the false writing, and

  • The other person relinquished possession of the property sought by the defendant after he or she detrimentally and reasonably relied on the defendant's written false representations or omissions

Note: Property includes: money, labor, real estate, and personal property.

As stated, a theft by false pretenses may be shown by the omission of a fact in a writing if the omission of the fact was material (important), so long as the other elements of the crime are present.

Theft by false pretenses may also be charged where the information in the writing is true, but the defendant never intended to fulfill any promise made in the writing.


Jail: The crime of theft by false pretenses may be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. When theft by false pretenses is charged as a felony the defendant may be punished by a jail sentence of up to three years (PC 532/484(a) & 532/487(a)). When theft by false pretenses is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may be punished by a jail sentence of up to one year (PC 532/484(a) & 532/487(a)).

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision instead of jail (or minimal jail compared to a non-probation sentence). A probation sentence, with or without jail, is available in some PC 532 cases.


Work Release: A work release sentence is form of manual labor, such as collecting trash around highways, that is intended to sere as an alternative to jail in some PC 532 cases. Work release is commonly ordered as a condition of probation, but it is not required that a defendant serve a jail or work release sentence as a condition of probation in a PC 532 case (as it is in other crimes).

PC 1170(h): If the defendant is convicted of PC 532(a), and he or she is not granted a probation sentence, then the defendant may serve his or her incarceration in a county jail (as opposed to a state prison). Also, jail sentences related to convictions for theft by false pretenses may be split or suspended. A split jail sentence means the defendant may serve a portion of his or her sentence out of custody on work release or house arrest. A suspended sentence is sentence that never needs to be served if the defendant doe not violate a term of his or her out of custody sentence (Suspended sentence is also called joint suspension).

Crimes of Moral Turpitude: Misdemeanor and felony charges of theft by false pretenses are considered crimes involving moral turpitude, which means that the charges are considered morally wrong or involve deceit. Crimes of moral turpitude carry extra punishment related to immigration and professional licensing issues (doctors, dentist, nurses, lawyers, etc.).

Firearm Prohibition: If convicted of any felony PC 532 crime, including PC 532/484(a) or 532/487(a), the defendant will be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

Strike Crime: The crime of theft by false pretenses is not considered a strike offense under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law, which means that PC 532 is not considered a serious or violent offense as those terms are defined in the criminal law.

In addition to any jail sentence, if convicted of theft by false pretenses, the defendant may face other penalties, including: fines, restitution to victims, criminal protective orders, harsh probation or parole terms, and more.


Common defenses to PC 532 charges include: mistake of fact, insufficient evidence to prove the defendant knew that any information or omission in a writing was false. coerced confessions, and more.

Note: If the alleged victim does not rely on the representation or ommission made by the defendant (or reasonably rely), the the defendant has not committed a PC 532 crime; however, attempted theft by false pretenses may be charged in this situation (PC 664/532(a)). Attempted theft by false pretenses carries shorter jail sentences than PC 532(a)>

If you have been charged with a violation of penal code 532, or theft by false pretenses, contact our law firm today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are experienced and successful and our office is always open to answer your questions and dscuss your defense options. Call today!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Theft by False Pretenses

Code: PC 532(a) & 532(a)/487(a) (CalCrim No. 1804)

Wobbler: Yes. PC 532(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 532(a)/487(a) may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.


Incarceration:Felony PC 532(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 180 days (1 year for misdemeanor PC 532(a)/487(a) crimes).

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 532(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 532(a) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: PC 532(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 532(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: Felony PC 532(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $25,000 (felony); $5,000 (misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

Theft by False Pretenses PC 532(a) Criminal defense lawyer attorney sentence punishment penalty jail prison misdemeanor felony Redlands Yucaipa san c rialto colton fontana rancho Cucamonga Ontario Victorville highland Hesperia loma linda se habla espanol Spanish abogado hs California ca crime penal code

Criminal Defense Lawyers


Ontario, Fontana, Yucaipa, Loma Linda, Rialto, Victorville, San Bernardino, Upland, Redlands, Colton, Highland, Chino, Hesperia, Rancho Cucamonga

bottom of page