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Property Crimes -

       Crimes are generally classified into three main groups: offenses against the person, offenses against habitation and occupancy and offenses against property. Interestingly, the development of offenses against the property has a very rich background.

Common Law History

       In the days of common law, there was a distinction between the larceny or theft of another person's personal property and the fraudulent taking of the very same property. The thief was always regarded as being very bad and evil and was subjected to severe punishment. However, traditionally, if you managed to obtain someone's property as a result of deception or trickery, you were often regarded as being clever and wily. It was a positive trait. A complete falsehood that resulted in loss of property was something to be admired. If I could convince you to trust me with your property, then you were the fool if I ran off with it. The exception was the servant would be punished, but the con man was praised. Over time, the distinction was abolished. In the original times, people were held accountable to do their own investigations about business dealings. Today, society attempts to protect everyone, so that no one ever investigates.

Types of Property Crime

       Some of the more common types of property crime include burglary, identity theft, shoplifting, arson and vandalism.

Burglary - . If the structure is inhabited, it is first degree burglary. All other burglaries are second degree. First degree burglary also qualifies as a Strike under the Three Strikes provisions, sinceit is a serious felony under Penal Code §1192.7.

Identity Theft - The fastest growing crime seems to be identity theft. California has more victims than most states. It is a felony to use the personal identifying information of another person without their authorization in order to obtain merchandise or credit.

Shoplifting - Probably the most common types of theft offenses are shoplifting and auto theft. The taking of property that is worth more $400 makes it a felony. Some counties in California have diversion programs for first-time shoplifting.

Arson - A person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously
sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.

Vandalism - Vandalism involves a person who destroys, damages or defaces with graffiti the real or personal property of another. This would include vehicles, signs, fixtures, and buildings belonging to the government. If the amount of the damage is $400 or more, then it is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison or by a fine of not more than $10,000.

Felony versus Misdemeanor

       Although California has traditionally distinguished between grand theft and petty theft based on the value of the goods, with $400 being the dividing line, there is a recent proposal to increase that line of demarcation to $2,500. Thus the definition of felony versus misdemeanor could be significantly altered if this proposal becomes law. It would also have a significant impact on the number of people sent to state prison, as prison is only an option for felonies.

- Written by , Attorney at Law





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