top of page

Theft Crimes Law & Defense
PC 484 & 487

Theft charges come in dozens of varieties, including petty theft, Grand theft, vehicle theft, embezzlement, robbery, burglary, fraud, identity theft, shoplifting, etc. This article is dedicated to theft charges filed under penal code 484(a) and 487.

PC 484(a): It is a crime to take the personal property of another person without consent or legal justification and to intend to keep that property from the true owner forever. It is also a crime to deceive another person into having that other person relinquish property, labor, or credit (PC 484(a) [Abbrev.].


Note: For PC 484(a) to apply, the property taken must be moved some distance in order to prove theft; however, the movement may be slight and the duration may be short.

Intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the property is almost always determined by the circumstances. For example, if the defendant steals food from a store and eats the food, then the the only reasonable conclusion is that the defendant intended to never return the stolen food.

Grand v. Petty Theft

Theft of property valued at more than a thousand dollars ($1,000) is considered grand theft and theft of property valued at one thousand dollars ($1,000) or less is considered petty theft. In determining the value of the property obtained, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received, the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern [PC 484(a)].


Jail: PC 484(a) may be classified as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the value of the property stolen. When grand theft is charged as a felony under PC 484(a) the defendant may face up to three (3) years in jail (county prison). When grand theft is charged as a misdemeanor under PC 484(a) the defendant may face up to one hundred eighty days in the county jail.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence may be available in some theft crimes for some defendants. A probation sentence is a sentence of supervision by a probation officer (felony) or a by the court (misdemeanor). A probation sentence can include some jail time as a condition of probation; however, jail sentences that are ordered as a condition of probation are generally short and may be served on electronic monitoring (house arrest) or work release. Other conditions of probation will apply, such as restitution to the theft victims, restraining orders, payment of fines, commit no further crime during probation, etc.

Suspended Sentences: When the defendant is sentenced to county jail, as opposed to receiving a probation sentence upon a conviction for PC 484(a), he or she may ordinarily have that jail sentence suspended or split. A suspended sentence is a sentence that is not served unless there is a violation of a probation term. A split jail sentence is a sentence that may be served partially in jail and partially out of jail on work release or house arrest. In addition, new California law allows some jail sentences to be served in a local county jail as opposed to a state prison.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude: Theft crimes, including charges of PC 484(a), are considered crimes involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude are crimes that are considered to be morally wrong or involve deceit (as opposed to statutory crimes). Crimes involving moral turpitude carry extra punishment for non-U.S. citizens and professionally licensed defendants. For immigrants, a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude could lead to deportation from the United States or denial of reentry in the country. For professionally licensed defendants (doctors, lawyers, dentists, nurses, teachers, etc.), a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude could lead to disciplinary action from the defendant's licensing agency (Board, Bar, Commission, etc.).

Three Strikes Law: Theft crimes charged under PC 484(a) are not considered serious or violent felonies as those terms are defined under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law (PC 1192.7 and 667.5, respectively).

In addition to a possible jail sentence, if found guilty of PC 484(a) or 487, the defendant may suffer any or all of the following: restraining orders, fines and court fees, restitution to victims, firearm prohibition (for felony PC 484(a) convictions), loss of legal rights in family law court, and more.

PC 484(a) & 487 Defenses


Every theft case is different; therefore, every defense to a theft case is different. The most common defenses to theft crimes include, but are not limited to, the following: insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, coerced confessions or other police misconduct, intoxication, insanity, statute of limitations (1 year for misdemeanor PC 484(a) crimes and 3 years for felony PC 484(a) crimes), alibi, claim of right, entrapment, consent, and more.

If you have been charged with theft, or penal code section 484(a) and 487, contact our successful and experienced defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our defense attorneys are available every day. Call today!


Closely Related Crimes


  • Theft of Leased Vehicle: PC 484(b)(2)

  • Grand Theft of Property > $950: PC 487(a)

  • Theft of Property from Person: PC 487(c)

  • Grand Theft of Firearm: (PC 487(d))

  • Theft by False Pretenses: PC 532

Quick Legal Reference​

Crime:  Grand Theft of Property

Code: PC 487(a) (CalCrim No. 1800 et seq.)

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


Incarceration:Felony PC 487(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years. Misdemeanor PC 487(a) jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 487(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 the 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 487(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 487(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 487(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 487(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $50,000, or amount stolen, whichever is more (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino County)

Theft Crimes PC 484 487 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

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

bottom of page