Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft Laws in California

California Penal Code 487 PC describes the crime of grand theft as unlawfully taking someone’s property that exceeds the value of $950.

Grand theft is another California “wobbler” offense, meaning the prosecutor has the discretion to file misdemeanor or felony charges, defending on various factors.

If the taken property is valued under $950, then a petty theft charge will normally be filed, which is always a misdemeanor offense.


A common example of a PC 487 grand theft charge includes a situation where someone shoplifts high value items, totaling over $950, from a department store in the mall.

Another grand theft example is a situation where an employee embezzles thousands of dollars from their employer.

For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing the laws below

What is the Definition of Grand Theft in California?

Penal Code 487 PC defines this type of theft-related offense as follows:

  • “Grand theft is a theft committed when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken has a value that exceeds $950.”

There are different ways to commit a PC 487 grand theft depending on the type of charge, such as:

  • grand theft by larceny means to physically take someone’s property with intent to deprive the owner;
  • grand theft by false pretense means knowingly and intentionally deceive someone in order to take possession of their property;
  • grand theft by trick means to use fraud or deceit to get the property owner to let you have their property;
  • grand theft by embezzlement means you were entrusted with certain property and you took it to benefit yourself.

What Type of Property Can Grand Theft Charges Apply?

As stated, Penal Code 487 PC defines grand theft as stealing money, labor, or real or personal property, which can include various common items including the following:Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft Laws in California

  • cash,
  • firearms,
  • jewelry,
  • cosmetics,
  • clothing,
  • vehicles,
  • work equipment,
  • furniture,
  • appliances,
  • electronics.

The classification of grand theft is related directly with the value of the stolen property. Put simply, over $950 is grand theft, while under is petty theft.

What Are the Penalties for PC 487 ?

As stated, Penal Code 497 PC grand theft is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecutor normally bases their decision on the specific circumstances of the case and defendant’s criminal record.

A misdemeanor grand theft conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail, and a fine up to $1,000. A felony grand theft conviction is punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a fine up $5,000.

There are also sentencing enhancements for theft of property having very high value that exceeds $65,000.

A defendant could also face a “strike” under California’s three strikes law for a felony conviction.

What are the Related Crimes for Grand Theft?

Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,

Penal Code 666 PC – petty theft with a prior,

Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC – grand theft auto,

Penal Code 459 PC – burglary,

Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,

Penal Code 211 PC – robbery.

Will I Go to Jail for a Grand Theft Charge in California?

Grand theft is a pretty common charge that I see in Los Angeles County courts.  It usually involves somebody stealing money, or merchandise or property worth over $950.00.

It can actually be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.  It’s a wobbler.  It’s not really necessarily a white collar crime, but you do see a lot of non-violent activity going on that results in a grand theft charge.

Obviously, nobody wants to have a grand theft charge on their record, and you could end up getting a prison sentence or a jail sentence, depending on a number of factors.

Probably one of the biggest factors that they’re going to look at in deciding whether they’re going to send you to jail or prison, is:

  • exactly how much money or goods were taken;
  • whether defendant can pay the victim back;
  • defendant’s criminal history.

One of the first questions I ask people when they call in and tell me they’ve got a Penal Code 487 PC grand theft charge is what’s the value of what they’re claiming that you are involved with taking?

Because I know that’s going to be one of the big deciding factors and how they handle the case — whether they’re trying to send the person to jail or whether some other means can be worked out.

Criminal record 

Another factor they’re obviously going to look at in a grand theft case in Los Angeles, is the person’s criminal record.  If you’ve got a clean record — never had any problems before, obviously that puts you in a pretty good position to avoid jail or prison.

If on the other hand, your record is marred with numerous convictions for theft related offenses, you’ve got any strikes on your record — that’s going to put you in a tough position.

Then the prosecutors are going to be saying that this guy hasn’t learned.  We need to give him a harsh sentence and then he’ll figure out that he has to stop stealing from other people.  That’s the mentality and that’s what I hear in court every day when I go.

Paying the victim back 

I think another big concern about going into custody if you’ve stolen something, is whether or not you can either:

  • pay the money back that was taken, or
  • return the item or value for the item or items that were taken.

The prosecutors and even judges, to a large degree, feel that it’s part of their job to make people whole when it comes to these theft-related offenses.

If you can get the money or the property back — if you pay it upfront and make the alleged victim whole and get them back where they were before, now you put yourself in a position to try to avoid jail or prison time.

I’m very success at negotiating cases where the evidence is solid against my client from the prosecution’s standpoint, but we’re able to pay money back and get the person back where they were before the theft occurred.

That gives us a nice piece of leverage, especially in today’s prosecution view as far as the District Attorney goes who’s prosecuting felonies, who’s prosecuting these grand theft cases in Los Angeles.

He believes that people shouldn’t be going to jail and prison for theft and drug-related offenses.  It should be more violent felonies that send people to prison or jail.

So, with that policy combined with a good strategy and a great attorney by your side, now you’re in a position to get the result that you’re looking for.

Defending Grand Theft Cases in California

What I do is have you come into my office.  We sit down and go over all the details of what happened.Criminal Defense for Grand Theft Cases in California

In this manner, when I meet up with the prosecutors and when I deal with them, I have all the information from your perspective, and then we’ll talk about what you’re facing, what you’re looking at and what you and I are going to each do to make sure that you get the best result.

I’ve been a criminal defense attorney helping people just like you to stay out of jail for nearly three decades.

Pick up the phone now and take the first step.  Ask for a meeting with Ronald Hedding.

If you are facing California grand theft charges, you need information from somebody who goes to court every day and who’s answering your question about whether or not you’re really facing a jail or prison sentence.

Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free consultation at (213) 542-0940.

Getting an Impossible Successful Result in a Grand Theft Case