The crime of “theft” is generally defined in Penal Code section 484. There are several different theft crimes, depending on the value of the property, how the property is taken or in this case, what the stolen item is.
What is Grand Theft of a Firearm in California?
Under Penal Code section 487(d), the theft of any firearm, no matter what the value, is grand theft. Unlike other kinds of grand theft, this is not a “wobbler” and cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. It carries up to three years in custody as a maximum punishment. It is also a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law since it’s classified as a “serious” felony in Penal Code 1192.7(c)(26). In addition, it is a crime that does NOT qualify for serving time in county jail (unless probation is granted).
The full language of Penal Code 487 that deals with grand theft firearm is:
Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases:
(a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), except as provided in subdivision (b).
(b) Not withstanding subdivision (a), grand theft is committed in any of the following cases:
(d) When the property taken is any of the following:
(2) A firearm.
With any theft offense, they must prove a specific theft intent – that is, they must prove that the property was taken with the specific intent to permanently deprive another of their property. They must also prove that the property was taken without permission. For example, if your friend loaned you their gun and later wanted it back and you refused, it is not theft of firearm since the original “taking” was done with consent or permission. That situation may be prosecuted as an embezzlement or under a different theory of theft, but not as a Grand Theft of a Firearm under 487(d)(2). If the firearm was taken during a residential burglary, both the burglary [Penal Code sections 459 & 460(a)] and the Grand Theft Firearm can be charged. Since residential burglary is also a strike, breaking into a house and stealing a firearm could be charged as two strikes.
If you have additional questions or are facing charges for Grand Theft Firearm – or any other criminal offense – give me a call and we can set up a time to meet and discuss things further. Until we’re speaking face to face in a confidential setting, don’t make any statements to anyone about your situation. Assume anything you say anywhere will be used against you.