Petty Theft with a Prior Law – California Penal Code 666

California Penal Code Section 666 describes the crime of petty theft with prior. It’s simply a myth that shoplifting charges can’t ever carry harsh penalties.

The phrase “petty” often implies a very minor crime that doesn’t attract a lot of attention as prosecutors focus on more serious offenses. However, a petty crime can actually carry harsh penalties – and can even be charged as a felony – with sentencing to a California state prison

Petty theft is described under California Penal Code 484, and considered a theft crime when the property taken has a total value of $950 or less. A petty theft with prior simply means you have a theft related conviction.

In other words, Penal Code 666 is designed to punish repeat offenders. For example, let’s says you commit a petty theft crime, but already have a conviction for other types of theft crimes, such as grand theft, robbery, or burglary – and served time in jail, or violated probation for these cases.

An example includes a situation where you have a residential burglary conviction, plus other theft crimes and served jail time, on your record and are unable to secure employment to have money for daily life. So, you go into a store and commit shoplifting by taking some clothes. As you exit, security details you and calls police – who in turn issues a citation for petty theft.

After the prosecutor discovers your prior residential burglary conviction and other theft related convictions – combined with the new petty theft – they can file new charges for Penal Code 666 petty theft with a prior.

To give reads useful information about PC 666 petty theft with prior charges, our California criminal defense lawyers are proving an outline below.

Definition of PC 666 Petty Theft with a Prior

California Penal Code Section 666 defines the crime of petty theft with a prior:

Anyone who, having been convicted of petty theft, grand theft, a conviction for auto theft under Vehicle Code 10851, burglary, carjacking, robbery, elder abuse, or a felony violation of Penal Code 496, receiving stolen property, and having served time in prison, or violated probation for these offenses, is convicted of petty theft with prior.

In other words, in order to be sentenced for PC 666 petty theft with prior – you must have prior convictions for PC 484 and PC 488 petty theft, or similar theft crimes.

As stated, a petty theft crime is unlawfully taking someone’s property valued at $950 or less – and normally involve shoplifting incidents – but also includes theft by false pretenses.

In order for a prosecutor to convict you of Penal Code 666 petty theft with a prior, hey have to be able to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – all the elements of the crime listed in CALCRIM 1850 Jury Instructions:

  • You have a prior theft crime conviction, and another prior conviction of specific crimes that make you eligible for sentence enhancement
  • The convictions resulted in serving time in county jail or state prison

Prior Conviction for a California Theft Crime

It should be noted that just being arrested and charged with a theft crime is not enough – there must be an actual conviction.  The prior California theft crime convictions could result in enhanced penalties for Penal Code 666 petty theft with prior, include:

Penal Code 211 – Robbery
Penal Code 215 – Carjacking
Penal Code 459 – Burglary
Penal Code 484 – Petty Theft
Penal Code 487 – Grand Theft
Penal Code 487(d)(1) – Grand Theft Auto
Penal Code 496 – Receiving Stolen Property

It should also be noted that only just having a prior theft related conviction won’t make you eligible for a sentencing enhancement under PC 466. To be sentenced under petty theft with a prior law, you must have either:

  • Three or more convictions for the theft crimes listed above, or
  • One conviction for a theft crime above, and either;
  • Sex crime conviction resulting in registration under Penal Code 290 or
  • Prior conviction for certain California serious or violent felony crimes

The serious or violent felony crimes making you eligible for PC 666 petty theft with prior enhancement includes sex crimes using force or threats, sexual related offenses against children, murder, attempted murder, solicitation for murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and other types of serious offenses punishable by life in prison or death.

Penalties for PC 666 Petty Theft with Prior

California Penal Code 666 petty theft with a prior conviction is a “wobbler.” This gives the prosecutor the discretion to file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony. The decision is normally based on the circumstances of the case and prior criminal record.

If convicted of a misdemeanor petty theft with a prior, you are facing up to one year in a county jail. If convicted of a felony, you are facing up to three years in a California state prison.

Fighting Petty Theft with a Prior Charges

If you have been charged with PC 666 petty theft with a prior, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use a variety of strategies to help you minimize the penalties. The common defenses include:

Challenge new petty theft case

We might be able to make a reasonable argument against the new petty theft case that made your eligible for a petty theft with prior enhancement. If the new case was shoplifting, perhaps we could argue here was a lack of intent, rather an honest mistake. If we can create reasonable doubt on the new case, or have the case dismissed, then you should be able to avoid a conviction under Penal Code 666.

False accusation

Our lawyers might be able to prove you are a victim of a false allegation and were wrongfully arrested. Perhaps you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. For instance, maybe you were with a friend who committed a theft crime and didn’t know they were stealing and you played no part in the theft, but were still arrested as an accomplice.

If you were charged with petty theft with a prior under California Penal Code 666, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm to review the details and options. We have a record of success defending clients in all type of theft related case. We need to first review the details of your case to develop a strategy for best outcome.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a criminal defense law firm serving clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area. We are located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We offer a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.