Petty theft is a misdemeanor in California and involves the theft of money, labor or property $950 or less in value.  It carries a potential sentence of up to 6 months jail and $1000 fine.  However, the prosecutor, the District Attorney (D.A.)for North County cases from Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Escondido and Encinitas or the City Attorney for San Diego Cases may treat them differently. They have the discretion to settle a petty theft case for an infraction especially if the loss is less than $50.  Infractions are minor offenses which carry a fine only like a minor traffic violation and are not misdemeanors.  Infractions are much better for your record.  Depending on the factors involved, some jurisdictions may reduce a petty theft to an infraction even involving even higher amounts and some may also have a diversion program where you may attend a theft class, stay crime and arrest fee for a period of time and get the charge dismissed.