Charges of theft are serious matters. A conviction can result in fines, jail time, and increased trouble finding work or housing once you have served a jail sentence. But charges of theft are not all the same. Some charges can result in stronger penalties, particularly charges of grand theft.

The California Penal Code classifies grand theft in a number of ways. In general, people commit grand theft by stealing property valued above $950. This includes not just money or material property, but also labor. For instance, an employee might steal labor from their workplace. The state can charge an employee with grand theft if that person steals labor or other assets with a combined value of $950 over a period of 12 months.

In some cases, the state will charge grand theft for property of a lower value. Stealing farm products, including crops or domestic fowl, may incur grand theft charges even if the value is just over $250. The same goes for agricultural products stolen from a research operation. And if a person steals anything off the person of someone else, the state may charge the thief with grand theft.

California law has recently varied in its treatment of stolen firearms. The Press-Enterprise explains that in 2014, state voters passed Proposition 47, which lowered the crime of stealing a firearm to a misdemeanor if the value of the weapon was below $950. But in November 2016, voters approved Proposition 63, which reclassified all theft of firearms as grand felonies no matter their value.

These examples show that the value of a stolen item can have a great impact on whether law enforcement charges someone with grand theft. Just as important is what exactly a person steals and how they take it. The greater the charge, the more the person charged may have to serve time and compensate victims for their loss if convicted.