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Theft by False Pretenses


California Penal Code 532 False Pretenses can be committed in several different ways. Theft by false pretenses prohibits defrauding someone of their money or property by using false promises. An example would be a person voluntarily giving up possession of something of value based on a false representation. You can see that this crime is accomplished with deception as opposed to physical force. Essentially, you can be charged with this crime for lying to someone in order to persuade them to give you their property, money, or anything of value.

            California PC 532 describes the crime as theft by false pretenses as “any person who knowingly and by design, using any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds someone of money, labor, property, or who causes others to report falsely of their wealth or character, and by imposing upon someone obtains credit and fraudulently obtains money, property, or labor is guilty of theft by false pretenses.”

            A “false pretense” is any word or act when the intent is to deceive another, such as:

  • Giving someone information that you know to be false
  • Making a promise you have no intention of keeping
  • Not giving a person information which you are obligated to provide
  • Making a reckless misrepresentation to another.

Like other theft crimes, the penalties for theft by false pretenses depends on the value of the items stolen.


The prosecuting agency must prove the following elements in order to successfully convict you of PC 532:

  • The defendant knowingly and intentionally deceived another person by a false pretense;
  • The defendant’s specific intent was to convince them to give the defendant their property;
  • The owner only gave the defendant possession of their property or money because they relied on the defendant’s false representation or pretense;
  • Once the defendant received the property or money, the defendant had an intent to deprive the owner for an extended period of time or permanently.

In order for the prosecuting agency to prove that you made a false pretense, they will try to prove this by way of showing there was a false token, by using a signed note related to the false pretense, or by using testimony from witnesses and other evidence. Finally, it is important to note that for a PC 532 conviction, the prosecuting agency must prove that the victim only gave the defendant their property because they believed the false statements were true.


  • PC 484 – petty theft
  • PC 487 – grand theft
  • PC 476 – check fraud
  • PC 470 – forgery
  • PC 368 – elder abuse


Like other theft crimes, the punishment for theft by false pretenses depends on the value of the property taken. If the property’s value is less than $950, it is a misdemeanor petty theft crime which carries the penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, or both. However, if the value of the property is over $950, it is a grand theft crime which is a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecuting agency can charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a felony, the penalties include 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison.


If you, or someone you know, is charged with theft by false pretenses under California Penal Code 532, our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers can use a wide array of tactics to secure the best possible outcome. These strategies may include showing that you had no intent to deceive, what you said you actually believed to be true, or that you planned on keeping your promise.

            Please contact our office if you, or someone you know has been charged with this crime. Each case is unique, but our team of attorneys will examine the facts and circumstances to determine the best legal route.

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