Petty Theft and Grand Theft
The prosecutor will file charges against a person for petty theft or grand theft if that person takes someone else’s property without their consent, and intends to keep it permanently (Penal Code Section 484(a)-488, or Penal Code Section 487(a)). These charges can be filed as misdemeanors or as felonies depending on the value of the items stolen ($400 is the breaking point), and whether or not the person has a prior theft conviction (Penal Code Section 666).
If filed as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is up to six months in county jail. If the accused has a prior theft conviction, the maximum penalty is increased, and the charges can be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If filed as a felony or petty theft with priors, the maximum sentence is several years in state prison.