5 Key Differences to Know Between Petty Theft and Grand Theft

    Theft is an umbrella term for the unlawful appropriation of property which belongs to another person. It’s a broad concept and can be charged with several degrees of seriousness, depending on the nature and value of the property stolen. It’s essential to understand the nuances between minor and major levels of theft, so you can be better prepared if you’re ever put in a situation where you need legal representation.

    1. Petty Theft is a Misdemeanor While Grand Theft is a Felony

    Petty theft is generally considered a lesser criminal act than grand theft. To be charged with petty theft, you must have stolen items less than $150 in value from a store or $300 from an individual. Such items can include things like candies or cheap electronics. Grand theft falls under California Penal Code section 487 and is a felony offense.

    2. Penalties

    The punishment for petty theft is generally a maximum of six months in county jail and up to three years of probation. Another possible penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 or community service. You may also be ordered to pay restitution. This is an amount the court orders you to pay the victim to compensate him or her for any financial loss incurred as a result of your theft. The punishment for grand theft hinges on the value of the stolen property. Depending on the value of the property, you can face fines of up to $10,000, time in prison of up to 20 years, or both.

    3. The Intent is the Same, but Petty and Grand Theft Have Different Degrees

    The legal definitions behind grand theft and petty theft are nearly identical. However, to be considered grand theft, the offense must meet certain criteria. In addition to the aforementioned amounts, the property must have been taken directly from a person, but not by means of force or fear. If force or fear is involved, it would be classified as robbery. A perfect example of grand theft is picking an iPhone from the pocket of an unsuspecting victim.

    4. Effects on the Reputation

    The legal consequences of grand theft are more severe than petty theft. If you find yourself facing grand theft charges, you may want to think about other ways to resolve the situation before you end up in court.

    Petty theft, on the other hand, is considered a relatively minor crime but can also tarnish your reputation and complicate your life in various ways, including the following:

    • You will have a criminal record, which can make it harder to find employment.
    • In most states, you must pay money to have your criminal record expunged.
    • A criminal record can make it more difficult to pass a background check which can even keep you from getting housing.

    5. Related Offenses

    Another way grand and petty theft differ is that the former is often the underlying offense used to prove other related crimes, such as embezzlement and fraud. Grand theft, on the other hand, can be committed by means of larceny, trick, embezzlement, and false pretenses.

    While there are many similarities between petty theft and grand theft, they come with their own nuances when it comes to penalties, restitution, and the like. You may even be charged with both petty theft and grand theft.