Defined in Penal Code 532, theft by false pretense essentially means that a person lied to someone else in order to get the other person to give them something of value such as property. In order to be convicted of this this crime you must be proven guilty of multiple separate elements that constitute the crime. The first element is that you need to have knowingly and intentionally deceived another person by false pretense meaning that you led them to believe something that was not true and you must have intended for them to believe this misinformation. California defines false pretense rather broadly; it can be making a statement without knowing that it is not true but also without any information that would justify a reasonable belief that it was true, not giving the other person information that you are obligated to do legally or making a promise that you know you won’t keep. The second element needed is the intent to persuade someone to give up his or her property to you then you can be charged with this crime. In this case the word “property” can include someone’s labor, so making someone work with the promise that you will pay them at the end of the pay period when you have no intention to do so can be considered theft by false pretense. Another element of this crime is that the other person has to rely on your information on the false pretense.
In order to get a conviction on a theft by false pretense charge the prosecutor needs some form of proof that the deception occurred. This proof can come in many different forms including but not limited to a false token that went with the false pretense like fake money, they can also use a note of the false pretense that is signed or written in the defendant’s hand writing, they can get testimony from two witnesses that the defendant made the false pretenses to or they can get the testimony from one witnesses and some form of collaboration.
Theft by false pretense is penalized in the same way as other theft crimes. The punishment is dependent on the dollar amount of the property stolen and the type of property that has been stolen. In cases where the total amount is less than $950 and the object stolen is not a car, a gun, livestock or certain agricultural products, then it is considered petty theft and is classified as a misdemeanor. The offender can face up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the total value of the object stolen is more than $950 or is a car or gun then it is considered a form of grand theft and is classified as a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the offense is considered a misdemeanor the offender can face up to 1 year in jail but if the offense is considered a felony, then the offender can face 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in prison. The only exception to this rule is if the object taken is a firearm, in that case it will always be ruled a felony and the time that the offender could face is anywhere from 16 months to 3 years.
An attorney could use a few different methods as defense mechanisms. One of the most important elements of the charge is the intent to defraud or deceive, without proving this, the prosecutor cannot prove you guilty of theft by false pretense. Another important fact is that in order to be guilty of theft by false pretense the person to whom the false information was given must have relied on that information. If the prosecutor cannot prove that the alleged victim relied on the false evidence, the defendant cannot be convicted of theft by false pretense.
If you or a loved one is facing a theft by false pretense charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.