While many people believe shoplifting is a rather insignificant crime, it can carry fairly hefty penalties, not to mention the long-term consequences of having a shoplifting conviction on your criminal record.
If you have been arrested and charged with shoplifting in San Diego, you are probably feeling anxious, even frightened for your future. You may be unsure of what direction you need to take in order to come through these charges with the least amount of long-term fallout. Call San Diego criminal defense attorney Vikas Bajaj today for a free consultation.
What is Shoplifting?
In California, any person who willfully takes merchandise which is marked for sale from a store or a business, with no intention of actually paying for that merchandise, may be charged with shoplifting, charged under California Penal Code 459.5. Switching price tags on items in order to obtain a more favorable price, also falls under the shoplifting Penal Code, becoming a separate offense from petty theft in November 2014, as a part of Proposition 47.
It can nonetheless be confusing, because in some instances, those who shoplift merchandise worth $950 or less might be charged with petty theft. The primary difference between the two may come down to intent: petty theft laws focus more on taking merchandise or property belonging to another, while shoplifting focuses on the act of entering a store with the intent to steal. Both shoplifting and petty theft are usually charged as a misdemeanor when the value of the items taken are less than $950. If the value of the items take are more than $950, the charges may be elevated to “grand theft,” a crime with more serious penalties.
Penalties for a Shoplifting Conviction
In general, shoplifting is punishable by fines up to $1,000, six months or less in a San Diego county jail, and three years of informal probation. If, however, you have an extremely experienced criminal lawyer by your side, first-time charges of shoplifting could be either dismissed, or reduced to a lesser infraction charge (similar to a traffic ticket, resulting only in a small fine).
If you are convicted on first-time shoplifting charges, you will probably pay about $635 in fines, serve one day in a local jail, and be issued a stay away order, meaning you must not go into the shop you stole from. A second shoplifting conviction could result in the same penalties as the first, along with ten days of public works service like picking up trash on the side of the highway. If, however, you have three or more prior shoplifting convictions, under California Penal Code 666, you could be charged with a felony, resulting in much more serious penalties.
You may be surprised to know that one out of every eleven people in the United States has taken an item without paying for it during their lifetime. Of those charged with shoplifting over the past five years, about three-quarters were adults, with the remainder being teens or children. Shoplifting is rarely a premeditated crime, in fact the majority of those who were caught shoplifting, did not go into the store with the intention of stealing. The shaky economy we live in also has some bearing on shoplifting statistics.
Rather than stealing for a thrill, many of those who shoplift do so out of serious financial need. This is reflected in the fact that the most commonly-shoplifted items include baby formula and meat. Whether you committed this act of shoplifting on an impulse, through financial need, or you truly forgot to pay for the item, one thing is certain—having experienced counsel at your side can help.
Why You Need a Knowledgeable San Diego Shoplifting Attorney
If you have been charged with shoplifting, this is not the time to be struck with indecision or inaction, hoping perhaps the entire thing will go away on its own. You need a San Diego attorney who understands that good people can make bad decisions—decisions they later regret. You need an attorney who won’t judge you, rather will go to work immediately to build a solid defense on your behalf to protect your future and your rights. With a goal of having your shoplifting charges dropped altogether, barring that outcome, your attorney will work hard to obtain lesser charges, or, in the event of a conviction, the least amount of criminal penalties possible.