Shoplifting – Cal. Pen. Code § 459.51

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime, and the statute specifies the value of the stolen goods must be under $950. If the property stolen amounts to more than $950 you could be charged with a felony. (1) 

What is the punishment for shoplifting in Orange County, CA?

The punishment is up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $1,000. This punishment can vary based on prior shoplifting convictions. Prior convictions can lead to felony charges. (1) Felony charges can result in up to 3 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Large corporate retailers do not have to report you immediately. They can take their time and collect evidence. Big box retailers like Target or Walmart are experts with loss prevention.

*Special note:* If you are also charged with burglary or theft, you are not criminally liable. There is a specific part of the statute (P.C. §459.5(b)) that excludes any other offense if charged with PC § 459.5(a). The prosecution must dismiss these charges. If you are charged with these offenses, hire an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Ornage County, CA to represent you.

What does the prosecution have to prove to convict you of Cal. Pen. Code § 459.5(a) Shoplifting (1)?

The prosecution must prove elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. In order to prove shoplifting (1), the prosecution must show that the defendant:

  • Entered a commercial establishment during business hours; AND,
  • Intend on to commit a theft of a total amount of $950 or less.

The property does not have to be taken off the premises of the commercial business. Even if it is given back, a person accused of shoplifting (1) can still be charged with the crime. 

How does the prosecution prove the element someone entered a commercial establishment during business hours?

The prosecution can use video evidence. They can get video from the store cameras or an employee’s phone. They will also use Body Worn Camera evidence from police if the agency that arrested you utilizes that technology.

How does the prosecution prove the element of intent?

Again, the prosecution intends to use video evidence or audio evidence revealing the intent. The prosecution can use direct evidence showing the intent, such as a confession. They will also utilize circumstantial evidence that will require the jury to make assumptions based on evidence.

  • Example of direct evidence: Police officers are trained to interrogate people who are committing theft offenses, including shoplifting (1). They will utilize these tactics to encourage a confession. The prosecution will use this confession in trial to prove that you committed the offense.
  • Example of circumstantial evidence: If the perpetrator was seen putting items in their bag or their pocket and then racing to the front door, the prosecution is going to tell the jury to assume you intended to leave with the items.

What are defenses to Cal. Pen. Code § 459.5(a) Shoplifting (1)?

  • Mistaken identity: if there is evidence that proves you were not there at the time, securing an alibi, or if the video is unclear and there is doubt on who the person could be.
  • Lack of intent: the prosecution may not have a confession, and this makes it extremely difficult to show intent.
  • Civil compromise: if a request for payment is sent and you have made the payment, the prosecution can choose to dismiss the case. This means restitution (2) is paid in full. This is governed by Cal. Pen. Code § 1378 (3). There are exceptions that apply also in Cal. Pen. Code § 1377 (4).
  • Pretrial Diversion: There are several types of diversion you may be eligible for. The best way to find out is to speak with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Orange County.

Can I get an expungement for shoplifting (1)?

Shoplifting (1) can be expunged after the case is over. When you want to expunge your record, you must look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. To see if you are eligible for an expungement, you should have your charges analyzed by an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Orange County, CA.

Are there any immigration consequences of being convicted of shoplifting (1)

A shoplifting (1) conviction might have immigration consequences because this is a Crime Against Moral Turpitude. While deportation for this offense is rare, it is very possible and could prevent you from gaining other types of immigration status. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Orange County, CA that will protect your immigration concerns during your criminal case. 

What are other related theft charges that could be misdemeanors?

Receiving stolen property – Cal. Pen. Code § 496 (5): In California, you could be charged with this if you have bought, received, or sold a stolen good. This could be charged as a felony, with prison time, or a misdemeanor with similar punishments as shoplifting (1). The elements are very complicated. If you have been charged with a complicated theft offense, be sure to hire an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney located in Orange County.

Petty Theft - Cal. Pen. Code § 484(a) (6): This can be a misdemeanor with similar punishments or it can be a felony which includes prison time. This depends on whether the amount of the theft is more or less than $950. The elements of a petty theft do not include intent so prosecutors are more willing to charge someone with this type of offense because it is easier to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Petty Theft with a prior - Cal. Pen. Code § 666 (7): Prosecutors will look at your previous criminal history before filing this charge. If they see you have priors, they can instead charge you with this code section. This can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is a felony, it carries the maximum of 3 years in prison and $10,000 fine. A conviction under Cal. Pen. Code § 666 has immigration consequences. If you have been charged with this crime and have immigration concerns, contact a Criminal Defense Attorney immediately.

Statute for Shoplifting (1) § 459.5

(a) Notwithstanding Section 459, shoplifting (1) is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950). Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary. Shoplifting shall be punished as a misdemeanor, except that a person with one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 may be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170. 

(b) Any act of shoplifting (1) as defined in subdivision (a) shall be charged as shoplifting (1). No person who is charged with shoplifting (1) may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property. (1)