Shoplifting Laws in California

All relevant information regarding theft and its regulation in California can be found in the California Penal Code under the theft section. Theft is the willful and illegal acquisition of another person's property. Shoplifting laws in California give the following classification for the cases: theft by larceny, theft by false pretenses, and theft by embezzlement. In other words, theft includes acquisition of borrowed property and not returned to the owner, changing the price tag in the store, taking items from the employer's consignment, etc.

Examples of “non-standard” shoplifting cases
Shoplifting laws in California are not limited to the above cases. The following examples also relate directly to theft and perpetrators are liable under the Penal Code.
·        If a person does not return the rented property
·        If a person falsifies information in order to sell items to a pawnshop
·        If a person is involved in fraudulent activities with the public housing program
·        If a person illegally uses funds to pay for services or materials
·        If a person appropriates the lost property without making proper efforts to find the owner

Classification of theft in California
Most states classify theft based on the value of the stolen property. California is no exception. How to make an evaluation of stolen property? The law measures it according to the fair market value of the property. When it comes to theft of services, the contract price for these services is taken into account. In the absence of a contract price, the cost is determined in accordance with a reasonable salary for the service.

·        Petty theft
California shoplifting law defines theft as petty theft if the value of the stolen property is $ 950 or less. Such an offense most often results in a prison sentence of up to 6 months or a fine of no more than $ 1,000, or both. If the value of the stolen property is $ 50 or less, the offender can be charged with an infraction in the event of the first offense. Such shoplifting penalty for petty theft in California does not exceed a fine of more than $ 250.

·         Petty theft with a prior conviction
In the event of theft of property worth $ 950 or less, the person can be charged with a felony if the perpetrator has a prior conviction. They consider a criminal record for at least one petty theft or a criminal offense related to theft for which the perpetrator has already served a term of imprisonment. It also includes previous convictions for any registered violent violent or sex offense or for stealing embezzlement from a person over 65. In this case, the offender is punished with shoplifting penalty in California for up to one year in prison. At the same time, a felony is punishable for 16 months, two years or three years.

·        Grand theft
If property worth over $ 950 or a firearm (regardless of its value) is stolen, the perpetrator is liable for a grand theft. In the case of the theft of a firearm, the offender receives a felony and is punished with imprisonment for 16 months, two or three years. In other cases, such theft may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. The shoplifting penalty in California for misdemeanor is imprisonment for up to a year, for a serious crime - 16 months, 2 or 3 years.

Shoplifting penalties in California
The offender is liable for criminal and civil liability for committed theft.
·        Criminal penalty for shoplifting. Theft in California is considered to be the removal of property worth less than $ 950 from a store when the store is open. The offender is punished with imprisonment for up to 6 months. In case of theft of property from a closed store, the perpetrator is liable for burglary which differs from the above regulations.
·        The person who committed theft in the store, in addition to criminal punishment, is also obliged to bear civil liability to the store owner. Payout amounts can be presented according to the following criteria. The retail value of the stolen item is taken into account if the stolen item has not been restored to its original condition. Damage is calculated in the range from $ 50 to $ 500. The accused is also obliged to return the amount paid for bringing the action.

Fighting with shoplifting charges
There are several positive scenarios for getting out of a situation when you are accused of stealing. Of course, they do not work in all cases. Therefore, you had no intention of stealing. One of the prerequisites for a conviction of theft is intent. If you did not initially have the intention to steal, it is possible to avoid punishment. You can also get the consent of the property owner. If the latter confirms that he gave you permission to do this, a positive outcome follows. Cases of false accusations are possible. You didn’t steal anything and didn’t intend to, and then you were falsely accused. The lawyer will study all the evidence in your favor and try to prove your innocence.

Admission of guilt
The guards of the store caught you, they called the police and the latter are demanding your confession. You should not sign anything if you have not carefully read the document or you have any kind of doubts. However, what can the police officers "strongly suggest" to you? Make an oral confession or sign a statement, or sign a form that is already filled out. Police officers take into account all possible evidence against the shoplifter. Perhaps the perpetrator searched the store several times, and then came for theft. Or he was taking and examining goods for which he could not pay. The surrounding circumstances can be important. It is also worth considering witnesses to the theft, if there are any.

Legal advice in case of charges
If you are accused of shoplifting, you should not rely only on the "not so serious" disposition. Shoplifting laws in California are specific. And you may face jail time and huge fines. Moreover, any criminal offense can lead to permanent convictions that greatly affect life. Therefore, you should immediately seek the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. Your rights must be protected and any criminal deserves fair treatment and punishment in accordance with the law. Many law firms offer free advice on theft charges. And then it's up to you to decide.
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