Reference Article: KTLA 5

Arrest Made in Caught-on-Video Attempted Package Theft in Alhambra: Police

The woman in this video (in reference article) is being charged with one count of grand theft, also known as California Penal Code 487(a). To a prosecutor, this case seems like a slam dunk. The woman is seen on video taking someone else’s property. Even though she only has the property in her possession for a short period of time, drops it and walks away, that short amount of time is enough for a theft. Infact, it can be argued that a theft occurred from the moment she picked up the package.

A  theft occurs when an individual unlawfully takes someone else’s property. If the value of that property is more than $950, it is a grand theft. In order to be convicted of grand theft, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the individual took possession of someone else’s property 2) without the owner’s permission 3) when the individual took the property, he or she intended to deprive the owner of it permanently 4) the individual moved the property even if only a slight distance and 5) the property taken was more than $950.

Grand theft is known as a wobbler. That means the prosecutor has the choice of filing this charge as a misdemeanor or a felony. A prosecutor will look at different factors when determining whether to charge an offense as a misdemeanor or felony. Some factors include prior criminal history, the amount taken, what evidence they have and certain factual circumstances. If the value of the property was $950 or less, then the charge would automatically be a misdemeanor. Whether an offense is charged as a misdemeanor or felony is important because it determines the punishment an individual charged with the offense will face. If the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the individual is looking at informal probation and up to 1 year in jail.  If the offense is charged as a felony, the individual is looking at formal probation and up to 1 year in jail or a prison term of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years. In either case, if convicted, the person would be required to give any property back or or pay for any lost or damaged property. Failure to do so could result in more jail or prison time.

Based on the fact that the woman in the video is charged with one count of felony grand theft, the prosecutor either believes the value of the package is more than $950 or there were multiple packages taken from the front of the house in a similar fashion, over a period of time, and the total value of all the packages was more than $950. If convicted, this woman is looking at formal probation, up to one year of jail time or 16 months, 2 years or 3 years of prison time. Being locked up is not the only consequence. Theft is a crime of moral turpitude. This woman is only 20 years old. Even if she does not go to jail or prison, having a crime of moral turpitude conviction on her record could affect her getting employment or getting into a college. It could also lead to immigration consequences. If she is not a citizen (undocumented or lawful permanent resident), depending on how long she has been in the country, or whether she has a prior criminal record involving a crime of moral turpitude, she may be facing deportation, ineligibility for discretionary relief, or the right of reentry.

While a prosecutor may see this as an open and shut case, I see something else. I see a potential defense and therefore reasonable doubt. I see a woman who honestly believes that the package belongs to her mother. If a person believes he or she has a right to the property, even if that belief is mistaken or unreasonable, it is a defense to theft. Here, the woman believes that the package belongs to her mother and her mother has given her permission to take the package. Even if her belief is mistaken, she is not guilty of grand theft.

I have worked closely with juveniles, young adults and adults on all matters relating to theft and other criminal issues. I have successfully fought for clients facing charges similar to the charge faced by the woman in this video. Having a theft conviction on your record can lead to severe consequences. If you have been arrested for a theft related crime, contact the Law Office of Heena Patel.