A Castro Valley Catholic church, the Church of the Transfiguration on East Castro Valley Boulevard, is missing one of its most important religious icons, a 200-pound, bronze, life-size statue of Jesus on the cross. It is a unique work, irreplaceable, and its value can never truly be calculated. However, it was commissioned to a particular artist through a Canadian company in 2006, meaning it likely cost the church a pretty penny.
California law is quite clear on the matter of theft. There are, in fact, two types of theft defined by the California Penal Code, the most serious of which is ‘Grand Theft’ (CA Penal Code 487). Generally speaking, ‘theft,’ is described as any illegal ‘taking’ of another person’s property without their express permission. The kind of property in question matters very little; its value, however, matters a great deal. If, for example, an individual were to steal property valued at or under $950, then this crime would be considered ‘petty theft’ (CA PC 484/488) and the legal consequences for having been found guilty of this crime would be rather light.
Comparatively, when the value of property that has been illegally taken is over the $950 mark, as the statue of Jesus in the story above very likely is, it is considered ‘grand theft.’ Usually, the crime of ‘grand theft’ is a ‘wobbler’ in California, meaning that prosecutors may, on their own, decide whether they will treat the offense as a misdemeanor or as a felony grand theft. Their decision, in turn, is based on the facts in each specific case. Thus, the thieves who stole the statue from the garden of the Church of the Transfiguration may be looking at anywhere from 1 year in county jail (if it is treated as a misdemeanor) or 3 years in state prison (if treated as a felony). The faithful of the Church of Transfiguration have publically stated that they will accept the return of their statue, no questions asked and no charges laid.
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