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Felony Petty Theft

What Is Felony Petty Theft?

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Felony Petty Theft

There is a statute of the California Penal Code, section 666, that someone who has previously been convicted of a theft-related crime in the past can be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Felony petty theft (it's official name is petty theft with a prior) is a much more serious offense as it carries much larger fines and potentially state prison time.

Felony petty theft has been a California law since 1872, however, it became much more prominent when it was voted into effect in as referendum Proposition 184, part of the three strikes law of 1994. There are cases in which a person convicted of two previous felony charges has been charged with a felony for a minor shoplifting incident. If, in a circumstance such as this, any of the previous felony charges were theft related, then the sentence for the felony petty theft is a mandatory 25 years to life in prison. This means that in a circumstance such as this, someone could go to prison for 25 years for stealing a pair of jeans.

This may seem quite unfair and has naturally received much criticism, both in the United States and around the globe. There were many court challenges to cases involving the three strikes law up until 2004 and there was a ballot measure that would have eliminated this felony petty theft law known as Proposition 66, however is was rejected by California voters on 2 November, 2004. It was also opposed by the majority of law-enforcement agencies and by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The main reason the felony petty theft Proposition 66 was so heavily opposed is that it would retroactively re-sentence every person convicted on third strike offences, consequently releasing violent criminals to be released from prison.