Orange County Shoplifting Lawyer
As a defense law firm with an experienced Orange County Shoplifting Attorney, our firm has experience in defending charges of petty theft, burglary, grand theft, and defending against allegations of shoplifting. Our firm has handled cases involving Nordstrom’s, Target, Fry’s Electronics, WalMart, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, (all of which are known for being aggressive in prosecuting shoplifters), and many many other retail shops, outlets, and businesses.
California Penal Code Sections 484 and 488 are the shoplifting or petty theft crimes that are usually charged. Penal code section 459, burglary, is also common in some situations, and is discussed below.
What is considered theft?
Under the laws above, they (the prosecutor) have to prove the following:
- You took possession of property owned by someone else;
- You took the property without the owner’s consent;
- When you took the property, you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently or to remove it from the owner’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property; AND
- You moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.
Is your theft case a misdemeanor or a felony?
Here in California, the law makes a distinction based upon the amount that was attempted to be removed from the store. Even if the store recovers all the property, they are going to typically file charges, or request prosecution, based upon the amount of the merchandise.
If you were arrested for shoplifting less than $950 retail value of property, then you may face charges for the misdemeanor of petty theft.
If you were arrested for shoplifting a retail value of $950 or more worth of property, then you may be charged with a felony — grand theft.
Why was I charged with burglary?
Burglary, or Penal Code section 459, is charged when there can be proven that there was an intent to steal before entering the store or business (what’s called “premeditation”). If it can be proven that you might have entered the store with burglary tools (to remove tags or security devices), or bags to conceal stolen items, or fake receipts, etc., they may decide to ask for the crime of burglary to be filed.
An intent to steal can also be proven by a confession, or admission to an intent to steal when you entered the store. For that reason, store security and the police are fairly aggressive in trying to get you to admit to something. But that admission raises the stakes of the crime substantially.
Shoplifting, or Petty Theft: The Punishment.
As misdemeanors, petty theft or shoplifting carries a fine of anything less than $1000 and any jail time less than 1 year in jail, which is the maximum.
As felonies, grand theft or burglary carries up to three years in state prison and substantial fines. First degree (residential) burglary is a strike felony under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, most persons are placed on probation.
In addition, all theft crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude. That means that a conviction means you are morally untrustworthy, and that might keep you from handling money for an employer in the future, or working in finance or banking. It can also prevent you from getting certain state licenses, and can have severe immigration consequences, as US Immigration Law prohibits citizenship, naturalization, or entry for persons convicted of certain crimes of moral turpitude.
Defenses to Shoplifting Cases
The Best Orange Criminal Defense lawyers will want to look at all the facts involved in the case, and any legal defenses, to see if there might be cause for a motion to dismiss the theft case. Consent (you had permission) is a defense. Lack of intent (you didn’t mean to steal) is a defense. Reduction to trespassing, disturbing the peace, or agreeing not to return to the store location are common plea bargain negotiations.
It is also very common for lawyers to contact the store arrange a “civil compromise” and pay back the person or store that you are accused of stealing from any damages (if any). If the compromise contract is accepted, then the charges could be dropped.
For that reason, it is very important that you not pay anything from a demand to pay letter you may receive, even if they promise to “close the matter”. They are not prosecuting you, the District Attorney, City Attorney, or other prosecutor is, and having an attorney have them agree to not participate in prosecution is the key to a successful civil compromise. These letters will not help you if you simply pay without negotiation. These letters are a shakedown, pure and simple.
Another common scenario, even where it may seem there are no defenses to shoplifting, is for the case to be diverted. A diversion is a type of plea bargain, where you agree to pay a small fee, attend a short class on theft (in most cases), and to give a DNA sample to be used to solve future crimes (this is currently done with Orange County shoplifting cases only). Doing those things would cause you to have your case dismissed at a future date, as long as you do not have any new or pending shoplifting or theft (or burglary) charges upcoming.
Shoplifting is usually a symptom of a larger problem. It’s no secret that statistically, more women than men shoplift, and often women going through depression, (postpartum being most common), or with other problems, usually psychological, but sometimes a physical or medical problem or a brain or body imbalance. Treatment of the underlying issue is more helpful to everyone than strict punishment.
Theft crimes are the type of crime that you will find having an advocate who knows the law will get you the best possible result, and minimize the impact on you.
The law states as follows:
“484(a): Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft. In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern. For the purposes of this section, any false or fraudulent representation or pretense made shall be treated as continuing, so as to cover any money, property or service received as a result thereof, and the complaint, information or indictment may charge that the crime was committed on any date during the particular period in question. The hiring of any additional employee or employees without advising each of them of every labor claim due and unpaid and every judgment that the employer has been unable to meet shall be prima facie evidence of intent to defraud.” California Penal Code Section 488: “Theft in other cases is petty theft.”
If you are charged with shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft, petty larceny, grand larceny, embezzlement, burglary, or any other theft crime, let our Orange County Shoplifting Attorney help you today. Don’t go this alone – you can get out of this with minimal impact on you. Call our firm today at (877) 942-3090.