Shoplifting often seems like an innocent crime. After all, the picture that comes to mind is of a kid taking a candy bar and dropping it in their backpack. However, the fact is that in California, any type of theft – including shoplifting – can have serious consequences. Keep reading to learn what those consequences could be and contact Law Offices of Patrick S. Aguirre at 800-572-1252 for a free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Legal Definition of Shoplifting
When you hear someone say “shoplifting,” they are generally talking about a person stealing property from a retail store. To put it simply, it generally refers to “lifting” something for a “shop,” hence the name “shoplifting.” However, the legal definition is much more specific. In order for a person to be guilty of shoplifting in California, they must:
- Have entered a retail store
- The store must have been open during regular business hours
- They must have entered with the intent to commit theft
- They must have taken (or attempted to take) merchandise worth less than $950
The prosecution is required to prove all of these elements to get a guilty plea. If they cannot do so, then you could be charged with something other than shoplifting.
Shoplifting Can Be Charged as a Felony or Misdemeanor
In most cases, shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if you have certain prior felony convictions, or you have been convicted of a crime that requires you to register as a sex offender, then a shoplifting charge could be filed as a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor and it is your first offense, you could spend up to six months in jail and pay fines of as much as $1,000.
When Shoplifting Becomes Burglary
You will note that if shoplifting charges only apply if the amount you stole (or intended to steal) was less than $950. If the value was even one penny more, you would not be charged with shoplifting. At that point, you could be charged with burglary. However, a burglary charge requires that the store you stole the merchandise from was closed when you went in and that you entered the building outside of regular business hours.
Defense Options for Shoplifting and Burglary Charges
We have noted all the elements required for a conviction. It is often the case that the best defense is to prove that one of those elements is not true. Even if all other elements are true, all elements must be proven for the case to be valid.
There are other defense options, such as working to show that some of the evidence against you was not lawfully obtained or arguing that it was a case of mistaken identity. If the evidence against you is strong, we might also negotiate for the best possible plea deal. Contact Law Offices of Patrick S. Aguirre at 800-572-1252 now to request a free legal consultation.