What is the Difference Between Theft and Fraud?

A lot of people think they know the difference between theft and fraud. But when asked to say what that difference is, they’re at a loss. That makes sense. There’s no reason for people to think or care about the differences between these two crimes. Unless you’re a criminal attorney or someone studying for the Bar Exam, why would you care?

The only other time you may care what the differences are between theft and fraud is if you’ve been charged with either crime. The penalties for these two crimes are different. So are the elements of each crime.

In order to be found guilty of either of these offenses, the State needs to prove the elements of the crime. If you’ve been charged with grand theft or any type of fraud, you’re going to want to call a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer knows what these crimes are. He also knows how to prove you aren’t guilty of these crimes.

What is Theft in California?

The crime of theft is pretty straight forward. If you take property that doesn’t belong to you, it’s considered theft. You may take this property from a person or a business. Either way, you’ll be charged with theft.

There are different types of theft. Petty theft is when you steal something worth less than $950. For people charged with petty theft in California, they usually receive some fines and probation. Unless you’ve been convicted of the crime many times, you won’t usually face any serious jail time. You’ll also be required to pay restitution to the victim.

Grant theft is something else altogether. Technically, if you steal something worth more than $950, it will be considered grand theft. The penalties are often much higher for grand theft. It can also be considered a felony in California.

Some examples of grand theft include the following:

  • You steal a car worth at least $1,000
  • You steal someone’s purse and they have a lot of cash in there, totaling more than $950
  • Also, you steal computers and electronics from a store or office building
  • You steal a neighbor’s dog

It’s up to the prosecutor to decide whether they want to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. In order to charge you with a felony, the State will consider the following:

  • The value of the things you stole
  • Whether or not you were violent when you stole the item
  • If it was taken from a house as opposed to from a person directly
  • Your criminal history

Your San Diego defense lawyer will take all of this into account when you first meet. He’ll reach out to the prosecutor and see if he can get the charges reduced or dismissed. He can also argue for probation as opposed to serious jail time.

Your San Diego criminal lawyer can also defend you against any charges of fraud.

What is Fraud?

Fraud is different from theft. When you commit a theft, you’re stealing property from someone else. When you commit fraud, you actually use deceit in order to take someone else’s property. There are many different types of criminal fraud in California:

  • Check fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Insurance fraud
  • Foreclosure fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Health insurance fraud

You can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor for fraud in California. Most of the time, the prosecutor is going to charge you with a felony. Your criminal defense lawyer in San Diego can then negotiate to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor.

However, you do need to know that each type of fraud carries its own penalty. If convicted of a felony, you’re going to face some serious jail time. Although you may get lucky and only receive probation, you could get several years in prison. You’ll also be required to pay the victim back for any money or property you stole using fraud.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Lawyer Today

If you or your spouse have been charged with either theft or fraud in California, you need to call a San Diego criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can review your case. He can also talk to the prosecutor and try to get the charges either reduced or dismissed. He can also negotiate a plea bargain and try to keep you from receiving a jail sentence.

Call today and schedule your consultation with an experienced San Diego criminal attorney today. You could be facing serious jail time. There’s simply too much at stake to handle it yourself.