What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in California?

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What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in California?

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Though shoplifting is an offense often associated with children going through a rebellious phase, many adults can be accused of and charged with this crime. Whether the accusation is true or not, understanding the penalties you can face if convicted is critical. The following blog explores what warrants shoplifting, the consequences you can face, and why it’s in your best interest to connect with a Sacramento criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected during these matters.

What Constitutes Shoplifting?

Shoplifting occurs anytime someone visits a store with the intention to steal an item without paying for it. However, shoplifting can also happen if someone intentionally manipulates the item’s price, such as placing a barcode for a low-value product on a higher-priced item to avoid paying the total value. This charge is warranted if the item is worth is $950 or less.

If you do not make it out the door with the item, you can still be charged with shoplifting. This is because intent to steal matters the most in these circumstances. As such, if you are stopped in a store and it’s revealed you have concealed an item so you can take it without paying, you can be charged.

It’s important to note that shoplifting only applies if the store was open when the theft occurred. If someone breaks into a store after it is closed with the intent to steal, this is considered larceny.

Will I Go to Jail?

Though shoplifting may seem like a relatively minor offense since it’s charged as a misdemeanor, you may be shocked to learn that you can spend time in jail for this offense. If convicted, a shoplifting charge warrants up to six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine, and probation.

However, if you have prior convictions for sex crimes, manslaughter, or any other violent felony, your shoplifting offense will be charged as a felony.

Are There Any Potential Defenses?

Though it may come as a surprise, there are defenses against shoplifting you may be able to use. One of the most common issues revolves around self-checkout scanners failing to accurately scan items. As such, you may be able to prove the machine malfunctioned and did not ring the item up despite scanning it, showing that you had no intention to steal the item.

Additionally, you may be able to prove that the shoplifting was a mistake or accidental. If you did not realize another person had put a t-shirt in the purse you purchased, you should not be held liable for shoplifting as it was not you who put the shirt in there, rendering it a mistake.

Regardless, it’s in your best interest to connect with an experienced attorney to explore your legal options if you are accused of or charged with shoplifting. At the Law Offices of Dale R. Gomes, we are dedicated to helping Californians charged with crimes fight for the best possible outcome for their circumstances. Contact us today to learn how we can guide you through these challenging times.