Houman Fakhimi

Long Beach on the Lookout for Gas Thieves

Gas prices across California have struck record highs, and it's not just consumers who are feeling the effect.

Long Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi understands that authorities here and throughout California have been on high alert for individuals who may try to heist gasoline from the pumps.

Gas prices have hit nearly $4.70 a gallon, and already, police in Northern California have reported the arrest of a man on grand theft charges for reportedly stealing $1,000 worth of petrol from a station there.

A few days before that, police say a similar but unsuccessful attempt was made just a few blocks away, although they aren't saying whether the two incidents may have been connected.

Theft crimes are charged in severity depending on the amount allegedly stolen and, in some cases, on the contents of what was stolen.

Petty theft, for example, as defined under California Penal Codes 484 and 488, is the taking of property that doesn't belong to you without permission from the owner, so long as it is under $950. It's a misdemeanor offense, though it can be charged as a felony if you have a prior history of theft offenses.

Grand theft, on the other hand, is charged under California Penal Code 487, and is the taking of property valued at over $950. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Under the former, the maximum sentence is a year in jail, and under the latter, you may serve up to three years in prison. You can be sentenced with additional time if the amount taken was extremely high ($65,000 or above).

Each case is going to be different, and an experienced Long Beach criminal defense lawyer is going to be able to help guide you toward the decision that makes the most sense in your case, depending on the allegations and the evidence.

In the most recent gasoline theft, police say that the manager of the gas station reported that a man pumped roughly 300 gallons of fuel, some of it in a tank that was loaded onto the back of his truck. Then on two other occasions, the same individuals were there, pumping roughly 350 gallons at each turn.

The security camera shows that a credit card was being swiped, but there was actually no payment for the gas and the pumps had been disabled so attendants weren't alerted that such a massive amount was being pumped until much later.

While this case is somewhat extreme, the majority of people who may be charged with gasoline theft will likely be facing a misdemeanor theft charge. Given that this would be considered a relatively minor crime, someone with a sparse criminal history has a good chance of a favorable outcome, with the help of an experienced attorney, of course.

Although misdemeanors are not considered serious, they do remain on your permanent criminal record, accessible by potential schools, employers, volunteer agencies, etc. What you don't want to do is simply plead guilty when an attorney may help you explore more options and potentially get a better deal.