Theft by False Pretense

A theft by false pretense or deceit can involve a taking of money, labor, real property or personal property. The crime of false pretense theft requires proof that any of the following things occurred:

  • The false pretense was accompanied by either a false writing or false token
  • There was a note or memorandum of the pretense signed or handwritten by the defendant
  • Testimony from two witnesses or testimony from a single witness along with other evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant made the pretense

The statutory scheme defines the term “false pretense” to mean “any act, word, symbol, or token, the purpose of which is to deceive.”

Section 484 of the California Penal Code recognizes that theft by false pretense is a crime that tends to continue over time. Under California Penal Code § 484(a), the crime covers any “property or service received as a result thereof, and the complaint, information or indictment may charge that the crime was committed on any date during the particular period in question.”

Attorney for False Pretense Theft in San Francisco, CA

If you were arrested for Theft by False Pretense or Deceit under Penal Code § 484, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers. We can help you fight the charges aggressively so that the best results can be obtained in your case.

Under the statute, someone can make a false pretense if, intending to deceive, the person does one or more of the following:

  • Gives information he or she knows is false
  • Makes a misrepresentation recklessly without information that justifies a reasonable belief in its truth
  • Does not give information when he or she has an obligation to do so
  • Makes a promise not intending to do what he or she promises

Proof that the representation or pretense was false is not enough by itself to prove that the defendant intended to deceive. Likewise, proof that the defendant did not perform as promised is not enough by itself to prove that the defendant did not intend to perform as promised.

The attorneys at Ticket Crushers represent clients on a wide range of theft cases including theft by false pretense and theft by trick. Call us at 1 (866) 842-5384 to discuss your case with an attorney experienced in fighting theft cases in San Francsico, CA.

Definition of “False Token” Under California’s Theft Statute

Under California law, the term “false token” is defined as a document or object that is not authentic, but appears to be, and is used to deceive.

An owner relies on false pretense if the falsehood is an important part of the reason the owner decides to give up the property. The false pretense must be an important factor, but it does not have to be the only factor the owner considers in making the decision.

If the owner gives up property some time after the false pretense is made, then the the owner must do so because he or she relies on the pretense.

Many false pretense cases involve corroborating evidence. This type of evidence is only sufficient if it tends to connect the defendant with the commission of the crime in such a way so as to reasonably satisfy the jury that the complaining witness is telling the truth. See People v. Fujita, 43 Cal.App.3d 454, 470 (1974). When considering if the pretense is corroborated, the the entire conduct of the defendant and his declarations to other persons should be considered.

Distinguishing between Theft by Trick and Theft by False Pretense

Although fraud is used to obtain the property in both theft by trick and theft by false pretense, in theft by false pretense, the thief obtains both possession and title to the property. For theft by trick, the thief gains only possession of the property. See People v. Ashley. 42 Cal.2d 246, 258 (1954).

False pretenses does not require that the title pass perfectly and the victim may even retain a security interest in the property transferred to the defendant. See People v. Counts, 31 Cal.App.4th 785, 789-792 (1995).

Implicit Misrepresentations for False Pretense

The misrepresentation does not have to be made in an express statement. Instead, the misrepresentation may be implied from behavior or other circumstances. In some cases, the pretense may be made about a past or present fact or about a promise to do something in the future.

If the pretense relates to future actions, evidence of nonperformance of the promise is not enough to establish the falsity of a promise. Instead, the intent to defraud at the time the promise is made must be demonstrated. Mere nonperformance or actual falsity is not enough.

Additional Resources

Financial Crimes Unit in San Francisco Police Department — Visit the website of the San Francisco Police Department to learn more about fraud investigations within the Financial Crimes Unit. The unit is located in the Hall of Justice at the courthouse and is tasked with investigating financial crimes including elder financial abuse, non-return of rental property, and theft by false pretense or deceit.

Finding an Attorney for Theft by False Pretense

If you were charged with theft by false pretense or deceit, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ticket Crushers. We represent clients charged with a wide range of theft crimes throughout San Francisco, CA. Call our experienced attorneys for theft crimes in San Francisco to discuss your case and possible defenses that might apply. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call 1 (866) 842-5384 today for a free consultation to discuss your case.