When talking about theft laws in California, it’s important to distinguish between theft and grand theft.  To be specific, California law defines the crime of theft as the unlawful taking of someone else’s property.  In situations where the value of the item taken is $950.00 or higher, then the crime is characterized as grand theft under Penal Code Section 487.  What may start out as a simple shoplifting arrest, can result in a charge of grand theft, if the value is $950.00 or more.  It is also important to note that grand theft charges are “wobblers”, meaning that they may be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the circumstances.  A conviction for grand theft can have devastating effects on a person’s professional and personal life but, with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, it may be possible to have the charges reduced or dismissed completely.

So what does the District Attorney have to prove in order to convict someone of grand theft?  He or she must prove the elements of the crime as follows:

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As most people know, codependency exists where one person supports another person’s addiction, anger or other psychological weakness. In the criminal context this unbalanced relationship rears its head very frequently. To the extent a parent or other loved one unequivocally and unreservedly supports the weakness of a child or other loved one, the cycle of codependency renews itself.


In my practice, I am presented on almost a daily basis with a parent of an adult child overcompensating for the child’s deficits. The hallmark of a codependent relationship is a lack of bilateralism, that is that the parent and child, regardless of the age of the child do not share in the responsibilities of their daily lives. Often times, the parent tries to explain away, justify or otherwise limit the moral or ethical responsibilities of his or her child.


Codependent people typically lack self-esteem and seek external influences to make themselves feel better. Typically, this is most often seen in alcohol or drug dependency. Sometimes though, it can rear its head in domestic violence settings.


The cycle begins when the stronger party attempts to rescue the week individual because the stronger person believes that the weaker one will recover their strength very soon. The primary problem with his thinking is that the weaker person has never possessed the internal strength to correct themselves. In fact, the weaker person usually treats the stronger person abusively, whether verbally or physically and will deploy any number of psychological techniques to gain their immediate goals of money, drugs or whatever they need.


What makes this situation so difficult to end is that the codependent person identifies themselves in a heroic light. They think that they alone can rescue the weaker person. This is demonstrably not the case. In fact, every effort they make to rescue weakens the person further. The codependent feels a heightened sense of self-worth and sometimes has their own issues of control, which is satisfied by “helping” the weaker person.


While facing criminal charges is a serious matter and requires the help of a family member or loved one, that help cannot be conditioned upon the approval of the person charged with a crime, nor can it act as a substitute for the change that must come to break the cycle of dependency between the two people. It is very common for parents of a child to be divided into how to deal with the child’s weakness. Often times, the child will attempt to divide the parents him or herself in order to gain the support of the codependent parent. This can result in divorce, alcoholism and other negative effects. It is very important that if you are in a codependent relationship and your loved one is facing criminal charges that you seek immediate legal help. We frequently refer clients for mental health evaluations and counseling where appropriate. Do not hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this further.


A recent study that has garnered a lot of attention is the finding by two Princeton economists, one a Nobel prize winner, that there is what has been termed an “epidemic” of substance abuse by middle-aged white Americans. In fact, the study found that for white Americans aged 45 to 54 with no college education, the increase in deaths attributed to substance abuse, which includes alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids increased at an extraordinary rate from 1999 to 2014. The debate swirls around the causes of this increase but of more pressing concern is how to abate this phenomenon.

Enter Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In that state, 1,200 people died from drug overdoses in 2014. Addressing what has been termed a “brutal opioid epidemic” in his state, Governor Baker has proposed legislation that would give hospitals authority to force treatment on drug addicts who are a danger to themselves or others. The legislation, if signed into law, would be similar to Massachusetts statute that permits the commitment of mentally ill individuals, often against their will. The proposed legislation would give hospitals the power to hold addicts for three days, against their will, in order to evaluate them. If the hospital determines that a longer commitment is needed, the proposed law would allow the hospital to seek legal permission to hold the addict for a longer commitment. The law would apply not only to drug addicts but to those addicted to alcohol as well. Massachusetts already has a law that allows families, police officers, and doctors to seek 90-day civil commitments for addicts who pose a serious risk to themselves or others, but this new law would up the ante for what is called “coerced treatment” by shifting the focus and authority to the hospitals.

Is this the best approach?

Some critics argue that overdose victims might be afraid to seek medical care for fear that they will be held in treatment against their will. Others worry about that these commitments are a violation of civil rights; indeed in 1972, the Supreme Court termed civil commitment a “massive deprivation of liberty.” Others are concerned that the funds for these programs will be abused.

But does “coerced treatment” work? Research on the effectiveness of coerced treatment has shown mixed results. There are studies that show coerced treatment is effective and other studies with the opposite results. Some professionals maintain that forcing someone into recovery is not effective because it is, by its very nature, harsh and confrontational. But the problem with voluntary treatment, as others point out, is that the drop-out rates are very high. Those who maintain that coerced treatment is more effective than voluntary treatment point out this fact and argue that the longer one stays in treatment, the more time the addict has to address and overcome the addiction.

The issue is a difficult one. On the one hand there is the concern about an individual’s right to be free from commitment against his or her will; on the other hand, society and the families of the individuals wish to not only help and protect the addict but often desire to protect others from the addict’s behavior. To compound the ambiguity, there is no final answer on whether coerced treatment is effective. Yet, the problem of addiction not only persists but is apparently increasing among certain segments of society. Ultimately, we must understand the underlying causes for addiction. But until that day, we might watch Massachusetts. If Governor Baker’s proposed legislation becomes law, it may provide one solution to the tragedy of addiction.



Sometimes the cost of doing business in California gives a business owner reason to consider whether it’s worth it at all. Between taxes, insurance costs and various fees, the cost of doing business in some professions can be exorbitant. Consider this: the cost of workers compensation insurance for roofing companies is around 90% of payroll. That’s right, for every $100 of payroll a roofing company pays to its roofing employees, it pays another $90 toward its workers compensation premium. While roofing companies have the highest workers compensation rates, other business classifications pay nearly as much. And then there are of course the aforementioned taxes and other fees that businesses pay.

So, what does this have to do with a criminal law blog? Plenty. The high cost of doing business in California has led some business owners to “get creative.” Sometimes this creativity becomes criminal.

Take the example of a small roofing company. Most of its employees are roofers and the cost of its workers compensation insurance almost doubles its payroll expenses. Maybe the owner of this small company decides to classify some of his employees as performing some tasks other than actual roofing in order to bring down his workers compensations premiums, or maybe he decides to underreport his payroll. Once he does this, he is breaking the law! He might think, oh well, if I get caught, I’ll just have to pay for the underreported insurance premiums.

Unfortunately, it is not so easy. The California courts are no strangers to criminal defendants whose only crime was underreporting payroll to its workers compensation insurance carrier or to the Employment Development Department (in order to avoid payroll taxes). California prosecutors vigorously investigate and pursue charges against business owners who use various methods to avoid insurance and tax costs.

Often business owners employ creative accounting or use corporations to hide their business activity. These owners almost never consider themselves criminal; they see it as just trying to make a profit. And they never imagine that they may end up in the state penitentiary.

Consider Michael Petronella, who owned a small roofing business in Orange County. He ended up being charged and convicted on 33 counts for underreporting his payroll to the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF), which carried his workers compensation insurance policy. Mr. Petronella’s defense boiled down to an excuse; it might have seemed like a good excuse, but it didn’t clear him of the crime. Basically, Mr. Petronella argued that he had no intention of deceiving SCIF, but his workers compensation rates were so high that it made his cost of doing business prohibitive.   He argued that the rate SCIF was charging on his roofer payroll was “so out of whack” that he couldn’t stay in business if he paid it.

Mr. Petronella went to trial believing he had a good defense. Unfortunately, the jury disagreed. Mr. Petronella was convicted and he was sentenced by the trial court to serve a term of 10 years in state prison! Mr. Petronella appealed his sentence, but the appellate court was not persuaded. The appellate court observed that Mr. Petronella knew he was underreporting his payroll and even if, as Mr. Petronella argued, SCIF was in error in the calculation of his premium rates, that would not make it legal for Mr. Petronella to basically take matters into his own hands and misrepresent his payroll.

Mr. Petronella’s case is but one example of the many variations of white-collar crime committed by business owners. While sometimes white-collar crime is blatantly illegal, sometimes it is not so obvious. If you think that the worst that can happen if you get caught cheating on your business taxes or insurance reporting is that you will have to pay up and incur penalties and fees, you could be very wrong. In all cases, when a business owner (or an individual) makes any report fraudulently with the intent to avoid taxes or insurance premiums, it is against the law.

California’s Proposition 47, which was considered a controversial measure, appears to be producing the results it was intended for.  However, there are still those skeptics who question whether or not the desired results are being met.  But, according to reports by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project, any criticism of Prop 47 seems to be based on anecdotes and scare tactics rather than evidence and data.

The report further went on to highlight the positive effects of Prop 47 which includes a 13,000 inmate decrease in jail and prison population in California.  This alone will save the state and counties more than $300 million per year.  Early releases from county jails has been reduced by 35 percent, which means that overcrowding in jails has gone down.  The report went on to say that of the prisoners released under Prop. 47, less than 5 percent have returned to prison or been convicted of a new crime.  This seems to support the claim that there is no connection between any increase in crime over the last year and  inmates being freed due to Prop. 47.

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An Orange County high school’s biggest theatre production in over a decade almost came to a halt after two speakers and nine wireless microphones worth over $7,000 were stolen from a locked moving truck less than a week before the show. Katella High School’s performance art equipment was borrowed from Cypress High, and was discovered missing when the school’s drama director arrived at the Anaheim campus on the morning of September 26, 2015.

Although, the theft was of considerable value, the items will not be covered by insurance because of the district policy for a $10,000 minimum for theft. The theft has been reported to the local authorities.

If you have been charged with theft, call an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to assist you.

California’s receiving stolen property law, Penal Code 496, imposes criminal penalties on those who purchase, receive, conceal, sell, or withhold from the owner, any property that they know has been stolen.

If you want to know more about theft, or your own charges, you can contact me, William Weinberg, at 949-474-8008 at my Irvine office.

Attempted Kidnapping Video May Lead To Arrest

The recent release of a video may lead to the arrest of an attempted kidnapping suspect. A 17-year-old girl from Northern California was grabbed while walking to school, and while being forced into a man’s car, screamed and fought him off. The suspect reportedly jumped out at the girl, which would seem to indicate that he had been waiting for her. The girl was able to beak free and the suspect then drove off. While the girl was not harmed and the suspect was not successful in his attempt to abduct her, if caught, he faces serious felony charges.

The definition of kidnapping is to move a victim from one place to another, using force or fear. Penal Code 207,208, 209 and 209.5 states that you violate kidnapping laws when you do the following:

  1. Move another person
  2. A substantial distance
  3. Without that person’s concern
  4. By using force or fear.

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You are driving late at night and your eye catches flashing red lights in your rearview mirror. Your mind races—you were driving at the speed limit, didn’t run any stop signs or the like—why was the officer stopping you? You pull over and the officer swaggers over to your stopped vehicle. You sense something is wrong. The officer asks you for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card; you produce all three. You are extra compliant because your sixth sense alerts you to be on guard; something is not right with this guy. He asks you to step out of the car. At this point you have no idea what you have done wrong so you politely ask the officer why he stopped you. Rather than respond to your question, his voice becomes agitated and demanding: “I said ‘Get out of the car!'” You promptly comply, feeling both angry and afraid at the same time.

The officer commands you to put your hands on your car and assume the search pose. Your mind is now racing—there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that would explain why the officer would search you. He searches your pockets and pulls out your wallet. He commands that you sit on the curb and begins riffling through your wallet. He pulls out some cash and tells you he is writing you up for several serious vehicle code violations. You know that is a lie. At this point, your brain kicks into self-defense mode. You ask the officer to return your wallet and money; the officer just laughs. So you stand up and try to grab your wallet. He gives you a big push, slamming you into your car. A struggle then ensues, which the officer initiated. Next thing you know, you are in handcuffs and being booked for resisting arrest and assault on an officer!

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With the seemingly endless summer in Southern California and a very hot autumn this year, should we be more concerned about crime? Everyone knows that crime increases in hot weather, right? Well, not so fast. Several studies have disputed that oft cited axiom.

Statistics for Los Angeles homicides show that the murder rate is highest in July and August, but almost as high during the cooler months of December and January.   In New York City, the Wall Street Journal conducted a study in which seven index crimes—murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and stolen vehicles— were reviewed month-by-month. The crimes were indexed by month for the years 2007 through 2009. The study found that New Yorkers are about as likely to be a victim of crime in the cold month of December or the cool month of October as they were in the hot summer months. A study on New Orleans shootings from January 2011 to June 2015 found virtually no relationship between hotter outside temperatures and the number of shootings.

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A bill recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown requires California’s public alert system to help in the effort to track down hit-and-run drivers. The new law uses emergency “yellow alerts” to broadcast the key details of fleeing hit-and-run vehicles. On digital freeway signs, the car’s color, make, model and license plate will be displayed in real-time. Hit-and-run collisions are on the rise, and especially in Southern California. In major cities like Los Angeles, nearly half of vehicular collisions involve a driver that flees the scene.  In 2014 alone, drivers of about 20,000 accidents left the scene and only 20 percent of the cases were ever solved.  According to state lawmakers that is about to change. In Colorado, this same program of “yellow alerts” quickly increased the arrest rate to 76 percent in hit-and-run cases. So what is a hit-and-run?

There are two types of hit-and-run crimes in California.  Penal Code 2001 applies to vehicle collisions that result in an injury or fatality, while Penal Code 2002 applies to accidents that result in damage to any property that is involved.  Both statutes require that any driver who is in an accident must immediately provide his or her name and current residence to the other driver. A hit and run crime involving any form of injury is punishable by fines between one thousand and ten thousand dollars and up to 4 years incarceration in state prison.  A hit and run crime involving only damage to property and no injury, is punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars and six months of county jail time.

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