Everyone understands the concept of theft, and how bad it is. However, once law enforcement gets involved, it can get confusing for many people not familiar with their terminology. Law enforcement officers have many different phrases and terms for different crimes. These terms help the officers identify the severity of crime, and many other factors. For civilians, these terms can be confusing.
One such term would be petty theft. Most people understand it means something was stolen, but we do not know the specifics. We do not even know the severity of the punishment for petty theft.
In the state of California, petty theft is defined as the unlawful taking of property that is valued at $950 or less. This is different than shoplifting, for example, since shoplifting can only happen in a commercial establishment when it is open for business.
All of these can be classified as petty theft, so long as the value of the stolen property is under $950. Petty theft is a misdemeanor crime in California, and is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in county jail, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.