Overview of Shoplifting Charges in California

Did you know that shoplifting crimes tend to increase around the holidays? Feeling the pressure of the season, some people resort to stealing presents for their loved ones when they cannot be afforded. A Carson City man’s attempt to steal a ring from a local Target was unsuccessful in the days before Christmas. Now, instead of celebrating the new year he is facing criminal charges for shoplifting.

What is Shoplifting?

What exactly is shoplifting? How is shoplifting different from other crimes of theft in California? Shoplifting, as defined in Penal Code 459.5 PC, occurs when a person:

  1. Enters a commercial establishment while it is open during regular business hours;
  2. With the intent to unlawfully take property;
  3. Valued at $950 or less.

The main distinction between shoplifting and petty larceny is that shoplifting must take place in a commercial establishment that is open to the public. Petty larceny, on the other hand, can occur virtually anywhere. In order to commit shoplifting, the defendant must actually intend to commit larceny.

Some situations may not fit neatly within the confines of the definition for shoplifting in 459.5 PC. Crimes that are similar to, but not precisely in line with shoplifting, will be classified as burglaries. These include entering a commercial establishment after hours to commit a theft and taking property valued at more than $950.

Intent to Commit a Theft When Entering the Store

It is important to understand that a shoplifting attempt does not have to be successful in order to face criminal charges. Penal Code 459.5 PC simply states that you must enter a commercial establishment during its open hours with the intent to commit a larceny. This means that you can face criminal charges for shoplifting regardless of whether or not your crime was successful. This also means that you cannot face criminal charges for shoplifting if you did not enter the store with the intent to steal. If you entered the store and then later decided to steal something, you would face criminal charges for larceny, rather than shoplifting.

The Carson City man pocketed a ring at his local Target store. The asset protection division contacted local police and reported the crime. When police arrived at the store the man was still inside. He attempted to leave when he saw police but was stopped before he could get away. When he was searched police discovered a ring with Target packaging. Video footage displaying the man’s act of theft was later used to support the charges against him. He is facing criminal charges for shoplifting despite the fact that he was caught before he could get away. If he entered the Target with the intent to steal the ring, he is guilty of shoplifting. If he decided to steal the ring once he was already inside the Target store, he is guilty of attempted theft.

Consequences of Shoplifting

First-time shoplifting offenders will generally face misdemeanor charges for their crime. In most cases, misdemeanor shoplifting is punishable by up to 6 months in a San Diego jail and $1,000 in fines.

There are situations when first-time and subsequent shoplifting offenders can face criminal charges for shoplifting. If a shoplifter has a previous conviction for any of the following crimes, the shoplifting charges will be elevated to a felony:

  • Murder, attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder;
  • Possession of a weapon of mass destruction;
  • A violent felony punishable by life in prison or capital punishment;
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated;
  • Sex crimes requiring registration as a sex offender.

Felony shoplifting charges are punishable by up to 3 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Fighting Shoplifting Charges in San Diego

There are a variety of defenses that you can assert when you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting. When these defenses are successfully argued the prosecution will have a difficult time proving that you are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This will help your chances of securing a reduction or dismissal of the charges in your case. Defenses that may be helpful in your San Diego shoplifting case include:

  • You have been falsely accused;
  • You have been mistakenly identified;
  • You did not enter the commercial establishment with an intent to steal;
  • You mistakenly took property that did not belong to you;
  • You paid for the property you are accused of stealing; or
  • You mistakenly believed you had the right to take the property.

San Diego Shoplifting Defense Attorneys

The best thing to do when you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting is to call an experienced shoplifting defense attorney. The theft defense attorneys at the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC understand that your future is on the line and will fight to secure the best possible outcome in your criminal case. Our aggressive approach often results in getting the charges against our clients reduced or dismissed. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC
1230 Columbia Street Suite 565
San Diego, CA 92101