Can You Be Charged With Theft of Utilities in California?

From the flick of a light switch to the comforting hum of appliances, we often take the seamless flow of electricity, water, and gas in our modern lives for granted. Unfortunately, although we have such convenient access to these utilities, they are undoubtedly expensive. Siphoning off some from a neighbor or making some adjustments to a meter may be tempting, but it could land you in hot water.

Anyone accused of stealing a utility in California will face severe penalties under California state law. If you are facing charges for utility theft, an Aron Law Firm criminal defense attorney can work to mitigate the charges or, in some cases, have them dropped entirely. Our team is adept at building solid defense strategies to protect the rights of our clients, and when you partner with us, you can rest assured we will work tirelessly to advocate for your interests.

What to Know About Utility Theft in California (Penal Code Section 498)

California takes a firm stance against all types of theft, including the theft of utilities. Utility providers invest significant resources in ensuring the integrity of their services, and any attempt to circumvent these systems can lead to criminal charges. Under the California Penal Code, stealing these services falls under specific provisions.

California Penal Code Section 498 outlines crimes related to theft of utilities, making it unlawful to steal services such as electricity, water, or gas. The section classifies it as a criminal offense and covers a broad range of actions, including:

  • Tampering with utility meters
  • Using unauthorized devices to obtain services
  • Any other deceptive practices aimed at acquiring utility services without proper authorization

The consequences of being charged under Section 498 can be severe, potentially resulting in fines, restitution, and even imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the case.

How to Fight Criminal Charges for Utility Theft in California

Fighting a criminal charge for utility theft requires a strategic and thorough approach. Here are steps you can consider taking:

  • Consult an attorney: An experienced criminal defense attorney, familiar with the local laws in your jurisdiction, can provide valuable insights into your case, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and guide you through the legal process.
  • Gather evidence: Work with your attorney to collect evidence that can support your defense. This may include any documents, records, or witnesses that can challenge the prosecution’s case or demonstrate that you did not engage in the alleged utility theft.
  • Examine the utility provider’s records: Review the utility provider’s records in detail. Discrepancies or errors in their documentation could be crucial to your defense. Your attorney may also investigate whether any technical issues or malfunctions could have led to a misreading of meters.
  • Challenge the evidence: Your attorney can challenge the prosecution’s evidence, confirming it was obtained legally and that any searches or seizures followed proper procedures. If there are issues with how the evidence was collected, it may be possible to have it excluded from the case.
  • Negotiate a plea bargain: In some cases, negotiating a plea bargain may be a viable option. Your attorney can work with the prosecution to secure a more favorable outcome, such as reduced charges or a lighter sentence, in exchange for a guilty plea.
  • Explore defenses: Your defense strategy may involve demonstrating you had legal access to the utilities in question, there was no intent to steal, or there are other mitigating circumstances.
  • Attend court proceedings: Attend all court appearances as required. Your presence demonstrates your commitment to addressing the charges and can positively impact the court’s perception of your case.

Remember, the legal process is complex, and having a skilled attorney by your side is crucial. Consult with a qualified legal professional to make sure you are taking the most effective steps to fight the criminal charge for utility theft.

Were You Accused of Stealing Utilities in California? Contact Our Law Firm Today

Aron Law Firm focuses on criminal defense and can provide professional guidance for those facing charges related to utility theft. Our team understands the intricacies of California law and can develop effective defense strategies tailored to the specific circumstances of your case.

Call (805) 618-1768 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a meeting with an Aron Law Firm criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.