Getting charged or arrested for a crime such as grand theft can be nerve-wracking and can induce panic. In a grand theft charge, one needs to consult with a skilled and experienced criminal lawyer to get legal advice and build a strong defense.

The Hallinan Law Firm defends those charged with a crime and looking for legal representation in San Francisco and Oakland. Our founder Mr. Neil Hallinan can legally help in various criminal cases involving high-stakes felonies, assault, murders, burglary, white-collar crimes, theft, misdemeanor, DUI/ DWI cases, weapon charges, and more.


In this blog, Mr. Neil Hallinan provides his insights on available defenses against grand theft charges, the difference between robbery, theft, and grand theft, and some examples of the cases he has defended recently.

How do you approach a grand theft charge?

In the case of a grand theft charge, the general approach is to look at the facts of the case and you first have to determine whether a prosecutor can even prove that a theft occurred. If the evidence is sufficient to prove that the theft occurred, the prosecutor then has to prove that the defendant was the one who committed it. If those two things go together, then we start breaking apart the specific facts to discern exactly which type of theft crime can prove occurred. For example, the most commonly known thing these days is that grand theft is distinguished from petty theft and the distinguishing line is the value of $950. 

And so, the prosecutor also has the burden of proving that the object stolen had a value of at least $950. That value can be determined by many things, for example, retail prices. Some judges are actually open to the value of the item, regardless of the sales price tag. So, what is the cost of manufacturing that item? What is the cost of transporting that item to the store? What is the store owner’s actual loss by the theft of that item? Sometimes it’s not always the price tag, but some judges do go strictly by the price tag in California.

The difference between robbery, theft, and grand theft

A robbery involves theft, but a robbery is a theft plus the taking by force or fear by the use of violence or the use of a threat, something that prompts a victim to involuntarily part with their property. 

Taking from the person of another, if not by force or fear, is grand theft from a person. So, the distinguishing feature, as I mentioned, between all grand thefts and petty thefts is the value of the item. So, you can take an item from a person that’s in their possession but without using force or fear to take it. And if the value is less than $950, then that’s just petty theft.  

Theft Cases defended by Neil Hallinan in Oakland

In Oakland, Neil has represented many people who have been accused of stealing from marijuana dispensaries. Usually, these people go in after hours. Sometimes they go in with weapons. Obviously, if you go in with weapons, it’s a robbery. There’s no question about it. It’s a robbery because you bring the weapon to use force or fear in order to take the property.

If you go in after hours, it’s a burglary. The taking of the property itself is not burglary, the entrance is the burglary. And so it’s possible that you can actually take less than $950 worth of merchandise. The theft charge, if it’s under $950 in value, would be petty theft, not grand theft. However, the case would most certainly be charged along with a felony burglary charge because you cannot break into any building, let alone a business after hours to steal its merchandise.

Theft Cases defended by Neil Hallinan in San Francisco

In San Francisco, Neil has represented numerous people charged with petty theft and grand theft charge. Most recently, he was one of the attorneys in the Louis Vuitton break-in, where about 50 people broke the glass doors to a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco, entered, and stole tons of merchandise.

Police only managed to arrest about four of them. Mr. Hallinan represented one of the accused who was seen on many news stations with his car windows being bashed in. The issue there was whether he was the person who went in and whether he actually took anything if and when he did. 

“Now, the funny thing about a theft from Louis Vuitton versus theft from Walgreens is you can take the same amount of merchandise from either store. You can even take a lot more merchandise from Walgreens than from Louis Vuitton. But what’s going to happen in Louis Vuitton is most likely that one item is worth more than $950 just based on the store tag and loan. And so, it’s very unlikely that someone can walk into a Louis Vuitton and commit a bit of petty theft, whereas someone can walk into Walgreens, grab a shopping basket, walk up and down the aisles, pushing all the merchandise in their cart into their basket, walk right out without paying. And it’s still petty theft because the value adds up to less than $950. I’ve represented numerous people doing each.”

Said Neil Hallinan while commenting on the current state of theft laws in California. 

He further added for the grand theft charge that “The district attorney in San Francisco has really eased up on prosecutions for petty theft crimes, and he’s received a lot of flak from it. A lot of store owners and businesses are saying he doesn’t do enough to help them. There is a counter-argument that a lot of stores, such as Walgreens, could afford to bring in security guards, but don’t. The net effect is not necessarily that people are getting away with it. The District Attorney is getting blamed for a lot of the crime that is happening.

But the net effect is that a lot of people who do get arrested for it get diverted, get put into a program where there are problems that cause them to commit petty theft in the first place are addressed rather than punishing them by putting them in jail or giving them a criminal record, which can only lead to recidivism and put them in a hole that’s hard to get out.

The Louis Vuitton store, obviously, is much more difficult to defend based on the value of the merchandise. As I mentioned, all you have to do is basically steal a T-shirt from Louis Vuitton, and the value is more than $950. So, in that case, the defense is more about identity and more about whether they can prove that our client actually did enter the store. And if he did enter the store, did he exit with merchandise?”

Grand Theft Defense Lawyer near you:

If you are facing a grand theft charge, you need to have a reputed defense lawyer by your side to strategically build your case. 

The Hallinan Law can help you right from the initial interrogation stage till the court proceedings, providing a reliable legal representation you can trust.  

Contact our office in San Francisco or Oakland to get a 24×7 consultation. You can also schedule a consultation by clicking on the link below.


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