Can A Petty Theft Be Charged As A Robbery Or Even A Commercial Burglary?
There are fact situations where a petty theft can be charged as a robbery, a felony, carrying a possible state prison sentence.
California case law defines a theft as not a completed crime until you have actually left the scene of the theft with the stolen items. For instance, if you enter a store and take some item and walk out without paying and you are stopped outside the store you can be charged with theft. However if the facts are changed where you resist arrest and begin fleeing the scene and use force to prevent apprehension you might be charged with robbery, a far more serious offense. The courts have ruled that in this situation the crime is still in progress and the flight and use of force is part of the continuing crime.
If to prevent being stopped you display a weapon, a pocket knife or any other item that you have in your possession and brandish it as a weapon other special allegations of weapon use can be also charged increasing the penalties.
If you enter a business and it can be shown that you entered the store with the intent to steal you can be charged with commercial burglary as a felony. This can be shown by the fact that you have no money or bank cards in your possession or means to pay. The intent can also be shown if you entered the store with shopping bags with the store logo on them (booster bags) or even if you had attempted to steal from the store on other occasions but were let go or not caught. The intent can also be shown by statements that you make to the police after arrest.
If you are detained for this sort of offense it is important that you make no statements. Nothing that you say can make the situation better for you and in most instances can increase the seriousness of the charge that can be filed.