One of the most increasingly common crimes is that of dognapping. Perhaps one of the most surprising things about this crime is the fact that is usually only charged as petty or grand theft and a good portion of people accused of the crime only face misdemeanor charges. Here’s what you should know about this crime and how it is charged in California.
What Charges Will People Face for Dognapping?
If the dog was tied up in front of a store or otherwise left unattended, the only charge will usually be standard larceny: aka, theft. The amount of money the owner paid for their dog is the only thing that even factors into whether the charge is considered petty theft or grand theft -if the dog cost more than $950, it will be grand theft, otherwise, it is petty theft.
In some cases, burglary charges may apply as well if a person enters someone’s property without permission with the intent to steal the dog. Dognappers frequently take valuable purebred pups from people’s yards when no one is looking and when this happens, they can face burglary charges.
While rare, some people may even face robbery charges if they take the dog directly from its owner through the use of force or fear. Naturally, if any force is actually used in these cases, the suspect could also face charges related to they type and severity of the force.
In the most famous dognapping charge, where someone shot Lady Gaga’s dog walker and stole her French bulldog, the thieves were charged with not only robbery, but also assault, attempted murder and firearms charges.
How the Law Determines a Dog’s Value
When determining the value of a dog, it does not matter how much money the owner has spent on their pup since they brought it home, including food, medical bills, toys or anything else. The only factor is how much he or she spent on the adoption or purchase of the pooch. A puppy that was bred for sale and stolen before it was adopted will be valued at the asking price prior to the theft or the fair-market value of similar pups of the same breed.
That being said, the owner of a dog used as a stud or a breeding female could be entitled to additional restitution due to any loss of income the owner suffered from not being able to breed their dog. The same would apply to any other dog that brings its owners income.
What are the Penalties for Dog Theft in California?
It depends on the specific charges the alleged thief is facing. Petty theft is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 6 months in jail and $1,000 -a punishment many dog owners who have lost a long-term companion due to theft believe to be too small, though it would take a new law to change this fact. If the dog is worth more than $950, the crime is grand theft, which may be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail or a felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison.
When burglary charges are filed, they can be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail, or a felony, punishable by 3 years in prison. If the dognapper entered the person’s home or garage though, the charge will always be a felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison -this level of burglary is also a strike under the three strikes law.
Robbery is one of the most dangerous forms of theft and is punished accordingly, with a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. The crime is also considered a violent felony and will add a strike to the offender’s record, meaning they must serve 85% of their sentence before they could be paroled. Penalties increase when the victim has suffered great bodily injury. When a gun is used, the state’s 10-20-Life law will also be invoked, meaning the defendant will also face an extra 10, 20 or life sentence being added to their original sentence.
If you have been accused of dognapping, remember that this is a serious crime that could leave you in jail or prison. But you can fight the charges, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.