Shoplifting and Theft in California
Shoplifting is punishable under California’s theft laws, found in Penal Code section 484. This law covers any action that leads to unlawfully appropriating the property of another person. There is a wide range of seriousness for offenses covered under this statute, from shoplifting an inexpensive item to felony stealing. There are two categories of theft, based on the monetary value of the items that were stolen. These categories are known as petty theft and grand theft.
What Is Petty Theft?
Petty theft is defined under California Penal Code Section 490. All petty theft charges deal with stealing items that are worth less than $950. When shoplifting is involved, the cost of all items stolen is combined.
In some cases, if the total value of the items shoplifted is less than $50, you may only face a simple infraction. This is typically punishable with only a fine. If the value is between $50 and $950 and it is your first offense, you will most likely face a charge of misdemeanor petty theft. While this may result in no jail time, the maximum possible penalty for this offense is six months in county jail and a fine that ranges from $50 to $1,000.
Repeat offenses can elevate simple shoplifting charges to a felony petty theft charge, even if the items taken have very little value. This may be used on the third offense, or on any subsequent offenses. If convicted of felony petty theft, you could face fines as well as a year in a California state prison.
What Is Grand Theft?
Grand theft is defined as taking items valued at more than $950. While this may seem like a lot, shoplifting at a boutique, electronics store or jewelry store can quickly eclipse this total. Even lifting multiple items from a department store can total more than $950 with only a few expensive items.
Grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. California law refers to this type of offense as a wobbler. Based on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history, the prosecutor will determine whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to ensure you face only a misdemeanor, or have the charges reduced after conviction. This will reduce the penalties you face, and prevent the shoplifting offense from seriously affecting your future.
According to California Penal Code Section 487, the sentence for a misdemeanor grand theft conviction is a maximum of one year in a county jail. A felony conviction can result in between sixteen months to three years in a state prison.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
If you are facing theft charges in California stemming from a shoplifting incident, having skilled legal representation is essential. At The Law Offices of Grant Bettencourt, we have the expertise necessary to help you fight these charges, and achieve a favorable result in court.
Schedule a consultation today using the form below or calling (925) 788-7178 any day or night of the week, and we can discuss the specifics of your case and begin to build a strong defense.