What is Shoplifting in California?
Shoplifting laws in California are defined under Penal Code 495.5. This state law makes shoplifting a misdemeanor charge. According to the law, the crime of shoplifting is committed when a person enters a store or other commercial enterprise during business hours with the intent to steal property with a value of $950 or less.
Prior to 2014, shoplifting crimes were under the umbrella of theft or burglary crimes. Depending on the value of the merchandise taken and whether there was intention behind the crime, defendants could be charged with grand or petty theft or even burglary, a felony.
With the passage of Proposition 47, the penalties for shoplifting crimes were reduced and a clear definition of shoplifting was provided.
Under Proposition 47, shoplifting offenses under $950 are considered misdemeanors, unless the defendant has prior convictions that include serious or violent felonies or those that require them to register as a sex offender. If convicted with priors, you could face felony shoplifting charges that come with up to 3 years in county jail and fines that could reach $10,000.
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How does the prosecutor prove the charge?
Prosecutors have the responsibility of proving the charges against you. They must show that you perpetrated the crime during regular business hours, and that you had the intention of stealing items with a value of up to $950.
Do you need to actually steal something to be charged with shoplifting?
Many people accused of shoplifting argue that they did not actually steal the merchandise because they were caught before leaving the store. Under the law, this does not matter. All that is required for a conviction is that there was intent to steal.
What are the penalties?
In most cases, shoplifting is considered a misdemeanor offense, punishable by:
- Misdemeanor probation of up to 3 years
- Maximum of 6 months in jail
- Maximum fine of $1,000
Shoplifting can also carry felony penalties of up to 3 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000 if you have prior serious or violent felony convictions on your record.
4 Possible Defenses to a Shoplifting Charge
Anytime you are accused of committing a crime in California, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced defense attorney. With their help, you can build your strongest possible defense and hopefully have your charges reduced or dropped altogether.
With shoplifting charges, there are several possible defenses that your attorney can raise in court in your defense. Which defense is chosen will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Some of the most common shoplifting defenses include:
- There was no intent to shoplift.
- It was not you who committed the crime.
- Your rights were violated under 4th Amendment search and seizure.
- There is not enough evidence for a conviction.
What do you do next?
Shoplifting charges should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you love is facing shoplifting charges in San Diego, your next step should be to call a skilled and experienced shoplifting attorney. The Law Office of Joni Eisenstein has helped numerous clients just like you to fight their shoplifting charges and avoid hefty fines and jail time.
Do you need a reputable shoplifting defense attorney in the San Diego area? Do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein to schedule your free and confidential consultation. Our attorney has over 25 years of experience working in the San Diego courts. She can help you obtain the best possible results in your case.
If you are on the fence about hiring a defense attorney, stop thinking about it, and do it now
Hiring a criminal defense attorney like Joni Eisenstein can help you go from a place of uncertainty to freedom.