Santa Barbara Shoplifting Defense Attorneys
In California, shoplifting is governed by the same laws that prohibit theft, though there are some specific details in a shoplifting charge that make it unique. Understanding the details and knowing how to best defend against a shoplifting charge can require years of practice. This is not the sort of thing you want to do alone, especially when there is so much to lose if you are convicted.
California does not have separate shoplifting laws. The same theft laws that cover your basic "property taken without permission" cover shoplifting. The term "shoplifting" means specifically that property is taken from a retail business by someone who otherwise appears to be a customer. In this respect it is distinct from employee theft or stealing from a non-retail business. Ultimately, however, it is governed by the same laws as general theft.
The two degrees of theft in California that apply to shoplifting are "petty" or "grand," and each has different requirements as well as different charges and penalties:
- Petty Theft: This covers any shoplifting incident in which the value of the property taken is less than $950. It is almost always charged as a misdemeanor - but it can be an infraction if the item's value is very low and the defendant has no prior criminal history. Punishment for a petty theft conviction can include up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Grand Theft: This is used if the item(s) taken during shoplifting have a value of $950 or more, or if the theft involves a firearm. Grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the factors of the incident such as the value of items stolen and any prior criminal history. A misdemeanor charge can be punished by up to one year in county jail and a fine, while felony charges can result in up to three years in state prison.
As with other criminal charges, the right defense against a charge of shoplifting will depend on the specific nature of the incident. Possible defenses can include the age of the defendant - children under 14 usually are not held criminally liable, though egregious circumstances can change this - and any mental incapacity. It is also possible to defend against a shoplifting charge by proving a lack of criminal intent. For example, if someone is apprehended inside a store with merchandise in his or her pocket, it could be argued that the person never intended on leaving the store with the items. No matter what the details of your case may be, however; do not try to defend yourself against this serious charge.
At NordstrandBlack PC, we have the knowledge and experienced necessary to work for you. If you or someone you know has been charged with shoplifting, call our Santa Barbara criminal lawyers today at (805) 962-2022 and tell us about your situation.