Kosnett Law Firm

Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

When does a theft offense become a felony in California?

Every state has its unique approach to criminal law. In other words, there are dozens of different statutes across the country regarding theft and other common crimes. The definitions for different forms of theft, as well as the consequences they carry, vary from state to state. However, it's important to understand that theft is a serious criminal allegation in any state.

In California, there are specific rules in place that separate minor theft or petty theft from serious theft or grand theft. Understanding how California defines legal terms related to theft can help you make informed choices about a criminal defense if you or someone you love may soon face theft-related criminal charges.

How does California define property crimes?

The first important point to understand if you have been charged with criminal activity in Los Angeles is the need to comprehend exactly what type of crime you are being charged with. The general public might assume that crime is simply crime, yet from a legal perspective, there are crimes against persons, against public safety, and crimes against property. Knowing the type of activity you stand accused of might help you better comprehend why you are facing charges (if it is still unclear to you), and how to defend yourself from them. 

Specifically referring to crimes against property, the California Penal Code includes the categories that many may already expect, such as: 

  • Arson
  • Burglary 
  • Larceny
  • Crimes against insured property
  • Interference with property 
  • Vandalism

Teenage brains and criminal activity

While developing into adult human beings, teenagers experience a number of impulsive thoughts and engage in alarming activities, including crimes. The truth is, teenagers behave in ways that are irrational, dangerous, emotional, reactive to stress and impulsive. They have different ways of approaching social situations, solving problems and making important decisions. Furthermore, they are less likely to think about the consequences of their actions and change their dangerous behavior as a result. Although people may think of this as normal teenage behavior, there is actual scientific evidence supporting these behaviors.

Researchers have found that the area of the brain responsible for experiencing aggression and fear develops early in teenagers. On the other hand, the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling our ability to reason, problem solve and think things through before acting, develops later. There are other areas of the brain that are developing during adolescence, including strengthening nerve cell connections and growing better communication pathways.

Tainted evidence and scientific testing

Scientific testing of evidence can be crucial in a criminal case. However, improper use of testing and misapplication of these tests is the second most common factor contributing to wrongful convictions in California and across the nation, according to the Innocence Project. Approximately 362 cases in the U.S. have been overturned after DNA evidence proved that the person convicted in the crime was not actually guilty. In half of all cases that have been overturned due to reprocessing of DNA evidence, misapplication of forensics was involved.

In some cases, tests were used in a case even though there has not been enough research to establish that these tests provide accurate or reliable results. For example, bite mark comparisons made on skin cannot provide accurate information linking a person to a crime.

Ignition interlock devices: What you should know

If you are charged and convicted of driving under the influence in California, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Interlock devices allow you to drive to work, school and run important errands safely, even when you have had your traditional driver’s license revoked because of a DUI conviction. Tulare, Los Angeles, Alameda and Sacramento counties all require ignition interlock devices with DUI charges. In other counties in California, however, it is up to the discretion of the judge presiding over the case.

Once you have an IID installed in your vehicle, you must give a clean breath sample in order to start your car. Rolling retests are also required during the drive to keep the vehicle going. If your BAC level measures above the preset level, the car will either not start or will power down. All of the information regarding start-up attempts, BAC levels and lock-outs is recorded in the IID and is transferred to law enforcement authorities during the vehicle’s inspection. Every 60 days, your vehicle must be inspected and calibrated by a state certified installer.

How a drunk driving conviction in California affects your career

No one wants to get arrested or charged with a crime. Even non-violent charges carry serious penalties and social stigma. Offenses like drunk driving can impact your social life and your career, as well as your freedom.

Impaired driving charges are relatively common and can happen to anyone who makes a simple mistake. A conviction for any level of driving under the influence (DUI) offense can impact your personal life and lead to serious consequences, including fines and potential jail time.

Cleaning your California criminal record

If you have a California criminal record and you find that it is having a negative impact on your day-to-day life, you are not alone. Having a criminal record presents inevitable hurdles for state residents, who may find that their record follows them around, potentially affecting everything from where they can live and work to whether they can vote. At the Kosnett Law Firm, we understand just how much your criminal record can haunt you, and we have helped many clients with California criminal records work to reduce the damage their criminal records cause them.

Per the Judicial Branch of California, state residents who have existing criminal records may be able to have their records sealed or dismissed, depending on several factors, and provided their situations meet certain circumstances. Essentially, sealing your records makes them invisible to the general public, meaning they typically should not appear when, say, prospective employers run a search on you.

Lineup misidentification: A serious problem

When people in California are charged with a crime, they may appear in a physical or photo eyewitness lineup. Although this form or suspect identification is still being used in many states in the nation, it has shown to provide unreliable results. Lineup procedures, as well as limitations of the human memory, have made it rather common for the wrong person to be chosen from the lineup. This may lead to wrongful convictions when this information is used as evidence in court. In some states, strict procedures have been put in place.

According to the Innocence Project, 358 people in the United States have been released from prison after DNA evidence showed they were innocent of committing a crime. Approximately 70 percent of these cases involved witnesses choosing the wrong person from a lineup. Once a person is identified, it can be extremely hard to convince a judge and jury that he or she did not commit a crime.

What are the differences between theft, robbery and burglary?

If you face theft charges in California, your specific charge may be for robbery or burglary as opposed to theft per se. As FindLaw explains, these three white collar crimes are similar to, but different from, each other, especially when it comes to what the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you.

Theft, robbery and burglary all are property crimes. To convict you of theft, which also goes by the name of larceny, the prosecutor must prove that you stole someone’s personal property with the intent both to do so and to permanently deprive your alleged victim of the property.

Are breath tests always accurate?

If you are pulled over in California on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be asked to undergo a roadside breath test. Although law enforcement officers use this test to determine whether a person is driving drunk, studies show the results of the test are often inaccurate. In fact, they can differ by at least 15 percent from the results of a blood alcohol test. This could lead to a wrongful DUI charge.

Research from the State University of New York at Potsdam shows that the readings on a hand-held breath test device may differ from the results obtained from an actual blood alcohol test. The breath test is designed to detect the amount of alcohol contained in a breath sample and convert that amount to a blood alcohol content level. The problem lies in the fact that substances found in a person’s mouth and in the environment, can affect breath test readings. In some cases, it can inflate the results. Environmental pollution, dirt, cigarette smoke, gas fumes, as well as the relative humidity and temperature can all affect breath test readings.

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