Lindsay Lohan was charged with a Los Angeles Grand Theft charge in January 2011. Grand Theft in California is charged under California Penal Code §487 and is filed a felony. It will be a grand theft charge anytime the item, or property stolen is valued over $950.
The penalty as established by legislation for a grant theft conviction may or may not include jail time, a fine and/or community service. Generally probation is a part of the sentence. The range for a potential sentence will differ for each person that is charged, based on their criminal history and the specific facts surrounding their case.
The good thing is that in California a grand theft charge is a “wobbler”. A “wobbler” is a charge that can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether it is filed as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on the facts of the case and the background of the person being charged. The government will look to see if a person has any enhancements that will favor a felony charge over a misdemeanor. Enhancements are factors that may warrant prosecution to propose a higher penalty. These factors include multiple similar charges in the person’s criminal history, or the value of the time stolen is extremely high (65,000 or higher). If a person is a habitual offender, or is on probation at the time of the charge, chances are the government will want to take it seriously and file it as a felony.
In a majority of cases, a plea bargain will be offered. When the government offers a plea bargain, they are asking the person to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. For example, if a person is being charged with a felony grand theft, the prosecutor will ask the person to plead guilty to a misdemeanor grand theft. The person who pleads guilty does not have the option to contest the charge, and in exchange the case is closed and they receive a reduced charge.
Lohan refused the plea bargain offered by the government in court. She instead chose to retain her right to contest the charge. She was ultimately charged with a misdemeanor grand theft charge (reduced from a felony) and given 120 days in jail. A misdemeanor charge doesn’t necessarily warrant mandatory jail time. However, in this case Lohan had a probation violation and has been in trouble with the law before. As a result, the prosecutor’s took into account all the facts of her case, as well as her background and felt that while a reduced sentence would be appropriate, her probation violation had to be addressed.
When the charge is a “wobbler” there is much room for strong argument and defense. A Los Angeles theft attorney has fought thousands of cases similar to Lohan’s and has the knowledge and expertise to prepare a case that gives a person the best chances of having it dismissed or filed as a misdemeanor. If it is a first time offense, there is a good chance of avoiding jail time, and having the case filed as a misdemeanor. An experienced California attorney will fight hard to keep the criminal record clean!