Shoplifting is a common type of theft that involves taking another person’s property worth $950.Shoplifting may be done intentionally or unintentionally. Intentional meaning, you get into someone else's property and grab an item. A person who commits deliberate shoplifting also does not intend to return the item to the rightful owner.

Unintentional shoplifting may happen due to many reasons. One of the cases is when you enter into a business, purchase a good, and out of distraction or being absent-minded, you end up picking another good that you did not purchase.

Many people believe that shoplifting is a petty crime, but it is a crime that carries heavy penalties in real sense. It can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the value of goods stolen and prior convictions. The penalties include serving a jail term, payment of fine, and being put on probation. To avoid these penalties, you need help from a qualified lawyer to see you through the process. Our Orange County Criminal Lawyer has been in business for a long time and has vast experience dealing with criminal charges such as shoplifting.

Shoplifting Definition Under the California Law

Under the Californian law, shoplifting is entering into another person’s business intending to steal from them goods worth $ 950 or less. Shoplifting is treated as a misdemeanor if, at all, you have no previous convictions of criminal acts. If you have prior criminal records, then you will be convicted for shoplifting as a felony. The two crimes have different penalties depending on the value of the stolen good and the number of times you have been previously convicted.

Prior convictions that will make your charges a felony conviction are:

  • Assault using a gun to a law enforcement officer
  • Solicitation of murder, murder, or attempted murder
  • Vehicular manslaughter with gross misconduct while intoxicated
  • Any claim that requires makes the law to register you as a sex offender.
  • Possession of a gun or any other weapon that is meant for mass destruction
  • Any other felony convictions whose punishment is life imprisonment.

With the introduction of proposition 47, penalties for some criminal charges were reduced. Shoplifting is one of the crimes whose penalties were reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. The reduction of shoplifting charges is dependent on the amount of stolen and prior convictions.

Proposition 47

Proposition 47 is an initiative that was passed in California in 2014. It aimed to reduce the charges for and penalties for some crimes. For example, before Proposition 47 was initiated, shoplifting was charged as a criminal burglary act and could carry felony charges. The introduction of proposition 47 initiative applied even to convicts who had previous convictions for burglary but had committed the crime in a real sense.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove to Convict You for Shoplifting.

For the prosecutor to convict you for shoplifting, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you indeed took someone else’s item without their consent. The prosecutor must, therefore, prove that:

  • You Took The Item Form The Owner Without an Intention to Return It

The prosecutor must provide evidence that you intentionally took items that do not belong to you intentionally. In addition to that, you had no intention of returning it to the rightful owner. In that case, you will be charged because you didn't care about the owner, and you have been planning for long to commit the crime.

  • You Stole the Items on Sale

For the prosecutor to convict you for shoplifting, they must prove that you indeed took the sale item. The evidence will be provided by the eyewitnesses who may be at the incident site. If enough evidence is found for your shoplifting charges, the prosecutor will have an excellent ground to convict you.

  • You Failed to Pay the Item on Sale

The prosecutor must prove that you sneaked into the shop, took an item, and did not pay for tithe proof provided by the people around the incident scene. The witnesses will give the evidence that they saw you stealing, and if they are not sure, they will question some suspicious movements around the premise of another person.

  • You Took the Item Without Permission from the Rightful Owner

For you to be convicted for shoplifting, there must be proof that the item's rightful owner was not aware that you took the thing. There must also be proof that you took the item to a distant place so that the rightful owner may fail to know where you took the item. The time when the item was stolen is another element that the prosecutor must prove to convict you for shoplifting.

If the prosecutor finds enough evidence, then you will be convicted. If not, the prosecutor may reduce your charges depending on how strong the proof is, or will have your case dismissed.

Consequences and Penalties for Shoplifting Crimes.

Defendants facing shoplifting charges have had the privilege to enjoy lighter sentences due to the enactment of proposition 47. Proposition 47 is enacted to reduce penalties for wobbler crimes in California, where shoplifting is just among other wobbler crimes. The charges and penalties, however, differ depending on the severity of your case.

  • Shoplifting as a Misdemeanor Conviction

You will be charged with shoplifting as a misdemeanor if it is your first-time conviction. If the value of the items you stole is more than $950, your case will also be charged as a misdemeanor. Therefore, you will face charges that include serving a jail term of not more than six months in the county jail. You will also pay a fine not exceeding $1,000. In addition to that, you will be put on probation for three years, whereby during these years, you will be participating in community service.

Another charge that will apply for a misdemeanor conviction is if you are a first time offender and the value of goods you stole are not more than $50.Your penalties may be reduced because your lawyer will negotiate the charges with the prosecutor. As opposed to the diversion plan, penalties may include completing a diversion program .It will act as an alternative to serving a jail term in the county jail. In addition to that, you will pay a fine not exceeding $250.

  • Shoplifting as a Felony Conviction

Your case will be considered under the wobbler effect if the shoplifting charges are pressed against you if you have had other criminal charges by the time the shoplifting charges are pressed against you. Your charges will therefore be considered a misdemeanor or felony. Felony convictions have harsh penalties, which will require you to have a lawyer to defend the case on your behalf.

Penalties for a felony conviction are serving a jail term of three years in the state prison. You will also pay a fine of up to $ 10,000.In addition to the penalties, you will also be put under probation. During the probation period, you will be required to participate in a community program.

The severity of felony convictions will depend on the value of the goods that you stole. If you stole items whose value is more than $950 and you are a first time offender, then the crime is considered grand theft. The penalties will include serving a jail term in the state prison, paying fines, and engaging in community service while on probation.

What You Should Do if You Are Accused of Shoplifting

The most important thing you should do when you are accused of shoplifting is to seek help from a professional lawyer. The lawyer will help you understand your obligation and rights under the California law. To preserve your rights, you shouldn't communicate with another person until you get legal representation from qualified personnel.

When accused of shoplifting:

  • Do not talk to anyone before consulting your lawyer.
  • Remain calm
  • Ask for a lawyer to represent you even before the arrest
  • Do not allow a search to be done on your Consenting to a search may seem like admission to guilt.

Resolving Your Shoplifting Case before Trial

Before your actual trial happens, there are some options you should consider to resolve your shoplifting charges. These options will favor you, especially if you are a first-time offender. The options are:

  • Convert to an Infraction

It is an option that works well if the value of the goods stolen is worth less than$50.The prosecutor, the judge, and the merchant owner can agree to reduce your charges. You will be required to pay $250 without probation.

  • A Civil Compromise

A civil compromise is a consideration if you are a first-time offender.

  • Plead for Lesser Charges

In some cases, the prosecutor will allow you to plead for lesser charges. That will be the case if the crime you have committed will have a long-term effect on you. One of the reasons you should seek lesser charges is if the penalties will affect your job security.

  • Enter Into a Pre-Trial Diversion

A pre-trial diversion is a program whereby you must attend an instruction course on antitheft and perform community service. The diversion program will apply if you are a first-time offender and below 24 years. It will also apply if the amount you have stolen is less than$300.

Common Defenses for Shoplifting Charges

Shoplifting may seem a petty crime, but the consequence and charges are very harsh. The harsh penalties can be reduced if only you involve a qualified lawyer to help defend your case. California laws allow you to contact your attorney if shoplifting charges are pressed against you. The reason being, under the California law, anyone with a criminal conviction is entitled to legal representation for the criminal case against you to be defended. The lawyer will protect your case such that your charges are reduced, or the case is dismissed. 

Hiring our Orange County Criminal Lawyer will relieve you of the hustle of looking for evidence. Since the lawyer is knowledgeable about the criminal law, several defenses will be presented before the prosecutor in your favor to drop the case. Some of the legal defenses are:

  • You Mistakenly Took Another Person’s Property Thinking That It was Yours

Mistakes are common among people. A fact that is well known to everyone. A mistake with someone else's property identity may happen. For example, you may come across an item that exactly looks like yours, and you take it, assuming you are on the right. However, you may end up facing shoplifting charges without the knowledge that the item belonged to another person.

 If charges are pressed against you in such a case, your lawyer will defend your case. The lawyer will argue that you did not have the intention to steal because you thought the stolen item was yours. The defense will therefore be considered as a mistaken Identity.

  • Civil Compromise as a Legal Defense For Shoplifting

It may happen in some shoplifting cases that after you cause damage or loss of a property from a particular shop. You and the shop owner may have a local agreement to repay for all the losses and damages without the property's owner pressing charges against you. Under the California law, that can be redefined as a civil compromise because you both agreed on how forward you committed the crime.

If the shop owner presses charges against you, your lawyer will defend your case, providing the evidence that you two had a civil compromise. If the evidence is strong enough, your charges are likely to be reduced or dismissed. 

  • There Was a Police Misconduct

There are some instances where police officers respond to issues. Such a case may happen if they suspect you are doing something wrong and arrest you without having a reasonable cause. You may, therefore, end up being prone to some forms of misconduct by the police. Such misconduct includes:

  • The police officer forcing you to confess that you did a crime
  • The police fabricating the evidence to convict you
  • The police were violating your rights as a Citizen despite you having committed criminal activity.

If the police charge you and it was due to their misconduct, your lawyer will file a motion against the police officer. The motion aims at giving the prosecutor a chance to determine whether there has been a previous complaint about the police officer. If the prosecutor does not get proof of prior complaints, then shoplifting charges will apply to your case. If it is found that there are previous complaints about the police officer's misconduct, the prosecutor will automatically dismiss shoplifting charges against you.

You Had the Permission to Take the Property or Item From the Owner

It is another defense that can work for your shoplifting charges. Your lawyer will argue the case that the owner of the property or the item had the consent that you took. You may be charged because you did not return the item; however, the attorney can argue that you did not agree on a specific date to do the return. In that case, the prosecutor may look at how strong the defense is and decide to either reduce your charges or dismiss your case.

  • You Did Not Have the Intention to Steal.

For your conviction charges to be true, there are some criminal elements that the charges should meet. One of them is that you must have the intention to steal from the other person. For example, you visit a shop, and after you purchase an item, you unintentionally pick an additional item that you have not purchased. Unless you intentionally take the extra item, your lawyer will argue that you took the item because you were absent-minded, tired, or distracted.

Another element is timing. There must be evidence that you did the shoplifting when there was no one in the shop and intentional. If you had informed the owner that you would be in the shop, your case might be argued. Your lawyer will provide proof that you did not commit the crime and that you had no intention of stealing from the shop owner.

  • You Were Wrongly Accused of Stealing

For you to be convicted for shoplifting, the prosecutor must prove that you were indeed the one who committed the crime. The prosecutor must also prove that you are the cause of the incident and physically present when the items were stolen.  Such proof is usually given by the eyewitnesses who were present when the item was being stolen. You may, however, fall victim if the eyewitnesses make a false accusation against you.

Suppose false charges are pressed against you for shoplifting. In that case, your lawyer will do a thorough investigation to determine the cause of shoplifting, what happened during the shoplifting, and if you had anything to do with it. The eyewitnesses may fail to identify the suspect and give a mistaken identity. In this case, you are suspected. After the thorough investigation, your attorney will argue that you were falsely accused, given the fact that the people at the scene did not precisely identify the person who stole and is therefore not sure that you were the one.

Offenses Related to Shoplifting

There are other offenses that you can be charged for alongside shoplifting. They include:

Trespassing Crime

According to the California laws, trespassing is defined as entering or accessing another person’s property without their permission. Trespassing is different from shoplifting in that trespass can happen even during the regular working hours, where you can enter into a business entity. The point of committing a crime happens when the entity owner becomes agitated by seeing you and orders you to leave the premises. In that case, the prosecutor will charge you for trespassing whose charges are those of a misdemeanor conviction, if not an infraction.

Petty Theft Crime

Petty theft is similar to shoplifting in that it involves stealing property or a service that belongs to another person, worth nine hundred and fifty dollars or less. However, it is different from shoplifting in that petty theft involves entering a premise that does not belong to you to steal. In case you happen to leave the property, you will be convicted for petty theft crime as a misdemeanor. You will therefore serve a jail term of six months in the county jail.

Burglary Crime

California law defines burglary as a crime that you commit to entering another person’s room, structure, or locked vehicle. By doing so, you want to commit a felony crime or theft. Burglary is similar to shoplifting because both crimes involve sneaking into another person’s property and taking something that does not belong to you. However, shoplifting has a value limit, that is, stealing goods worth $ 950 or less.

When it comes to convictions, the charges applied are different. If you are charged for shoplifting, the crime is treated as a misdemeanor. If charged for burglary, then the crime is treated as a felony. The two charges have harsh penalties that will require you to have a qualified lawyer to defend your case.

Grand Theft Crime

Grand theft is a crime that you commit when you get into another person’s property and steal goods worth$950 and above. The difference between shoplifting and grand theft is the value of the goods stolen. Shoplifting involves stealing goods in an open business of value $950 or less. Grand theft involves stealing goods worth $ 950 and above.

Find a Shoplifting Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Shoplifting charges are embarrassing and can be detrimental to your records. You can lower your reputation and lose your freedom just by a simple allegation. Shoplifting charges can lower the opportunities that you are entitled to, such as securing a job, and hence your potential to grow economically is affected. For you to have your case dismissed or lower the charges, you need an experienced lawyer to defend your case. Suppose charges are pressed against you for shoplifting while in Orange County, our Orange County Criminal Lawyer will see you through the trial moment. Our lawyer has successfully defended many other criminal cases because they are well versant with criminal law. You can contact us through 714-262-4833 to get the support you need.