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Theft of Copper Materials
PC 487j Law & Defense

Information on the crime of theft of copper materials is found at California penal code section 487j.

PC 487j Law


PC 487j: It is a crime for a person to steal, take, or carry away copper materials that belong to another person without that other person's consent (PC 487j Abbrev.).
Note: Cooper Material includes, but is not limited to: copper wire, copper cable, copper tubing, and copper piping.
It is not theft to move copper materials, even when those copper materials are moved without the consent of the true owner of those materials, if the defendant did not intend to permanently deprive the true owner when he or she moved them. Theft means that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the true owner of the copper. Usually, the defendant's intent to permanently deprive the true owner of copper materials is shown by circumstantial evidence, such as when the defendant cuts wire from a construction site at night and without permission. 
PC 487j Punishment
Jail: PC 487j may be charged a a misdemeanor or as a felony (wobbler). When PC 487j is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail. When PC 487j is charged a a felony, the defendant may face up to sixteen months, two, or three years in the county jail. The amount of jail the defendant is ordered to serve depends largely on the presence of any mitigating or aggravating factors in the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any.
Note: A felony crime may be reclassified and reduced to a misdemeanor in a theft of copper case. Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor usually requires a request from the court, over the district attorney's objection, and based on good cause, that demonstrates the presence of mitigating factors in the case. This can be done at any time in a case, but usually this request is made at a preliminary hearing where a judge has a chance to hear the basic facts of the case (PC 17b).
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision instead of jail. Probation sentences are allowed in theft of copper cases, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not a defendant receives a probation sentence after a conviction of PC 487j depends on many factors, including the defendant's criminal history, the facts of the case, and the terms of any plea agreement. 
Note: A probation sentence after a conviction for a felony is called formal probation, which is monitored by a probation officer and a probation sentence after a conviction for a misdemeanor is called informal probation, which is monitored by the court.
Work Release: Work release sentence is type of manual labor that usually involves collecting trash along highways or around county jails.Work release sentences are intended to serve as an alternative to a jail sentence. Work release
PC 1170(h): If the defendant is convicted of stealing copper materials and he or she does not receive a probation sentence , then the defendant will be allowed to to serve his or her incarceration in a county jail, as opposed to a state prison. Also, any jail sentence related to a PC 487j conviction could be split or suspended. A split jail sentence means that the defendant may serve some part of that sentence out of jail on work release or house arrest (GPS monitoring). A suspended sentence is a jail sentence that might not have o be served at all if the defendant obeys the terms of his or her out of custody sentence.
Three Strikes Law: PC 487j is not a strike offense per California's Three Strikes Sentencing law.
CIMT: Theft of copper is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that the crime is inherently wrong or involves deceit. Crimes that involve moral turpitude can cause major negative consequences for non-US citizens and licensed professional (dentist, teachers, nurses, etc.). Non-US citizens may be deported or denied reentry into the United States upon an arrest or conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude and licensed professionals may be disciplined by their respective licensing agency (Board, Bar, or Commission).
In addition, the penalties listed above if found guilty of PC 487j, the defendant could face any of theft following punishments: Fines, up to $2,500 (Misdemeanor) or $10,000 (Felony), court fees, restitution, criminal protective orders, denial of enlistment in the United States Armed Forces, character impeachment in subsequent prosecution, civil lawsuits, and more.
PC 487j Defenses
Common defenses to a charge of theft of copper materials include: insufficient evidence to prove any element of the crime (intent to permanently deprive, carry away the materials, etc.), consent to move the copper materials, illegal search and seizure, mistake of fact (as to consent to move the materials or the fact that the materials belonged to another person), jury nullification, duress, coerced confession, necessity, Failure to timely prosecute (Serna Motion), and more.
If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of theft of copper material, or penal code section 487j, contact out criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation. Our lawyers will patiently explain your rights and defense options and we are available every day of the week to assist you. Call today!



Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Theft of Copper Materials

Code: PC 487j

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


Incarceration:Felony PC 487j jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

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

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 487j is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems


Firearms: Felony PC 487j convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $50,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

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

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