Shoplifting is not just taking something from a store without paying for it. If you change the price tag on an item to avoid paying the full cost or eat at a grocery store without paying for it, you are shoplifting. It may be easy to assume that these charges are not a big deal since they are one of the most common crimes in particular Among juvenile offendersBut this is a dangerous assumption for those facing charges. Always hire an experienced defense attorney if you are accused of shoplifting.
Is shoplifting legal in California?
Contrary to what some websites and social media pages will tell you, shoplifting is completely against the law. Many people share this misinformation because it is now a misdemeanor crime, whereas these acts were previously charged as burglaries. But if you think a misdemeanor is not a crime, then by this logic, drunk driving, assault, and indecent exposure are all legal, too. The truth is that misdemeanors are criminal offenses that can leave you behind bars.
The change that led to people declaring that shoplifting was now legal occurred in 2014, when the state passed a specific law, Penal Code 459.5 (PC), that defined retail theft and protected those who took less than $950 worth of merchandise from facing burglary charges . . Before a specific shoplifting law was created, this crime was treated like any other form of theft, meaning that those who took more than $950 worth of merchandise would face charges of grand theft while those who took less would face charges of petty theft. .
In many cases, shoplifters will also be charged burglaryIt is considered a felony if the Public Prosecution and Police believe that the defendant entered the store with the intention of stealing. Under the new law, burglary charges cannot be filed with shoplifting.
What is shoplifting?
Shoplifting involves entering a business during normal business hours and taking or intending to take merchandise valued at less than $950. If the suspect enters the store outside regular business hours, standard theft, trespassing and burglary charges may apply. If merchandise valued at more than $950 is taken, the suspect will still face grand theft charges.
While the previous law required someone to take merchandise from a store, security guards can now stop shoplifters before They leave the store if they see someone trying to steal. However, the prosecution must be able to prove that person sperm To steal. While they may be able to secure a conviction against someone who shoves a video game down their waistband when they think no one is looking, it will be much more difficult to build a successful case against someone who was stopped before they even got to the register because they marked a game for a child to shop with. In his bag.
Intent also matters in these cases, so if someone leaves a store with an item at the bottom of their shopping cart that they accidentally forgot to pay for, they are not violating the law.
What happens if you are caught shoplifting in California?
What happens to someone caught shoplifting will vary depending on:
- the shop
- the value
- Their criminal record
Do all stores catch shoplifters?
While some companies have policies that prohibit employees from stopping shoplifters, other companies encourage them to stop shoplifters. Once a suspected shoplifter is caught, some stores simply photograph that person and tell them that they are banned from the store and will be charged with trespassing. Other businesses will call the police and try to arrest someone for any amount of theft.
How does value affect theft charges?
If the police are called after someone is caught shoplifting, the value of the products will determine what charges will be filed. In retail theft cases, determining value is usually very key. For items valued at less than $50, the DA often chooses to file the offense as an infraction, meaning the defendant will only need to pay a fine, and the offense will not end up on their criminal record. When items are worth less than $950, shoplifting fees usually apply. If the value is more than $950, the prosecutor will usually file grand larceny charges unless the stolen goods are of significant value, in which case, the charge can be filed as a felony.
Is shoplifting a misdemeanor or a felony?
One of the oddities of 459.5 (PC) is that while this crime is usually a misdemeanor, the DA may choose to file charges as a felony if someone has a prior conviction for a sex crime that required registration on the state’s sex offender list or a serious or serious crime. Violent felony. Crimes that could qualify someone for felony shoplifting charges include:
- Manslaughter involving drunk driving
- Attempted murder
- A serious or violent felony punishable by life imprisonment or death
- Child molestation
- Forced sodomy
- Forced oral intercourse
What is the penalty for shoplifting in California?
Shoplifting charges are often a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. If the defendant has previously been convicted of certain violent, serious, or sexual crimes, the prosecutor can file the charges as a felony. When shoplifting is charged as a felony, it is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 3 years.
In cases where the stolen merchandise is valued at more than $950, defendants typically face misdemeanor grand theft charges, punishable by up to one year in prison. If the stolen items are particularly valuable, felony grand larceny charges may be filed, meaning the defendant could face a sentence of up to 3 years.
What are some defenses for shoplifting?
In many cases, it is best for defendants not to fight these charges, but instead to participate in a diversion program that allows them to avoid pleading guilty, serving time in prison, and having a criminal charge added to their record. These programs require the defendant to take shoplifting classes, and then the charges are dropped.
Likewise, when suspects face felony charges, sometimes the best approach is to reach a plea agreement that results in the charges being reduced to a misdemeanor so they can complete a diversion program and avoid jail time and a mark on their criminal record.
When it is helpful to fight the charges, one of the strongest defenses is to deny intent to commit theft. For example, if you leave a grocery store without paying for something in your shopping cart, the prosecution must be able to prove that you intended to steal the item and that it was not a simple oversight on your part. Likewise, while it is possible to be convicted of intending to steal an item, if you put something in the top of your wallet and are caught before leaving the store, you may be able to argue that you intended to pay for the item and were simply caught. Not given the chance.
Organized robbery gangs
Unfortunately, after the enactment of this law, some criminal organizations began to organize to commit theft from retail establishments knowing that anyone caught could be subject to a diversion program. To help end these organized theft rings, California passed a new felony theft statute, 490.4 (PC). This law allows for increased penalties for anyone who works with one or more people to steal or receive stolen goods.
Like standard shoplifting charges, whether or not these crimes are a misdemeanor or felony depends on the amount of property stolen; However, the value of the goods is aggregated across all theft incidents – not just an isolated act. Because prosecutors base charges on the total value of the stolen goods, these charges are often filed as felonies, punishable by up to three years in prison. When the crime is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is one year in county jail, which is still double the standard shoplifting sentence.
Those caught stealing or attempting to steal merchandise from a commercial establishment may face charges other than shoplifting. Those who physically resist someone trying to arrest them can be charged theftfelony.
Because you can only be charged with shoplifting if you enter a business during regular business hours, and if you enter a store after it is closed with the intent to commit theft or any felony, you may face burglary charges.
If you are charged with multiple charges, a shoplifting defense attorney may be able to have some of the charges dismissed or reduced.
Whatever the details of your case, do not talk to the police without your robbery defense attorney present. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.