Los Angeles Shoplifting Attorney
Have you been arrested for shoplifting in Los Angeles, CA? Shoplifting may be a form of petty theft, but do not assume that penalties cannot be harsh and life-changing. A theft conviction can follow you for the rest of your life.
For over 20 years, The Rodriguez Law Group has aggressively defended clients against all types of criminal charges. Contact our law firm today at (213) 995-6767 for a free consultation with a Los Angeles shoplifting attorney who will fight for your freedom and good name.
How the Rodriguez Law Group Can Help if You’re Arrested for Shoplifting in Los Angeles
Do not make the mistake of assuming a shoplifting conviction is no big deal. While a seemingly minor misdemeanor, a conviction can have serious consequences and leave you with a permanent criminal record. The Rodriguez Law Group can help you fight against the charge you are facing to avoid the harsh penalties of a criminal conviction.
Founding attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez has 20 years of experience as a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. He also spent 13 years as a Senior Deputy District Attorney and brings crucial insight into the tactics the prosecution will use against you. He has a 10.0 Superb AVVO rating and has been prominently featured in the national news for his insight.
Choose The Rodriguez Law Group to defend you in your shoplifting case and we will:
- Protect your legal rights and offer sound advice and guidance
- Gather exculpatory evidence that raises reasonable doubt or proves your innocence
- Help you explore the best possible legal defenses
- Seek alternative punishments to jail like diversion programs and misdemeanor probation or a civil compromise
- Negotiate with the prosecutor for a satisfactory plea bargain
You do not need to simply plead guilty and accept the consequences of a theft conviction. Contact our law office in Los Angeles, California to schedule your free case review today. Our experienced attorneys can help you explore your best legal options.
What Is Shoplifting in California?
Theft crime in California is classified under two broad categories. Grand thefts refer to thefts of property, money, or services valued at more than $950. Petty thefts refer to thefts valued at less than $950.
Shoplifting is generally considered a form of petty theft and one of the most minor theft offenses in Los Angeles. Under California Penal Code Section 484 PC, petty theft is defined as stealing, carrying, leading, taking, or driving away another’s personal property.
Petty theft can occur in many ways, however. It may involve:
- Theft by larceny,
- Theft by embezzlement under PC 503,
- Theft by false pretenses under PC 532, or
- Theft by shoplifting under PC 459.5.
Shoplifting is a type of petty theft that is covered under the same statute as burglary in California. Prior to the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014, shoplifting could be charged as felony burglary. Prop 47 reduced this offense to misdemeanor shoplifting when the value of the goods stolen is under $950.
Under PC 459.5, shoplifting is defined as “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open.”
Shoplifting charges can be brought in many scenarios.
You may be charged with shoplifting for:
- Switching price tags
- Concealing an item in something you’re buying, or
- Hiding merchandise on your person and leaving the store.
The key difference between petty theft and shoplifting is intent. If you enter a store with the intent to commit theft, you are committing shoplifting. If you enter a store without the intent but choose to steal something on a whim once inside, it is considered petty theft.
What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in Los Angeles, California?
Petty theft and shoplifting are the lowest levels of theft crimes in California, but the penalties can still be serious. If convicted, you may face jail time. A theft conviction can also impact your life and make it difficult to find gainful employment or even rent a home.
If you are suspected of shoplifting, you may be charged with a shoplifting offense under 459.5 PC or petty theft under 484 PC. A shoplifting theft offense under 459.5 PC is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Shoplifting is a Wobbler
Note that shoplifting and petty theft are “wobbler” offenses. If the amount of theft exceeds $950, you may be charged with grand theft under 487 PC, a felony charge. You may even be charged with burglary, a felony offense that carries a penalty of up to 3 years in prison. However, burglary should only be charged when someone enters a store with the intent to steal and criminal intent formed before entering the store.
Civil Consequences of Shoplifting
You may also face a civil demand from the merchant or store owner. Under Penal Code 490.5 PC, merchants may make a civil claim to recover the value of the goods stolen. After being cited or arrested for shoplifting, you may receive a civil demand letter stating you must pay restitution or be sued by the store owner.
Shoplifting is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude
In addition, a shoplifting conviction can have immigration consequences as theft is considered a “crime involving moral turpitude.”
First-time offenders convicted of shoplifting may qualify for a diversion program to avoid jail time and have the charges dismissed. This alternate punishment requires completing theft diversion classes, paying restitution, and possibly completing community service. If you complete these steps and do not commit another offense, your charge can be dismissed.
First-time shoplifting offenders may also face summary probation or informal probation as an alternative to jail time. This type of probation is supervised by a judge and lasts up to one year. The judge can choose many types of probation conditions such as:
- Participating in therapy
- Completing a treatment program
- Completing community service
- Finding gainful employment
- Paying restitution and/or fines
- Submitting to random drug testing
If you receive informal probation, you must return for periodic court dates to give the judge a progress report.
Prior Convictions Could Lead to Enhanced Penalties
If you have a prior criminal record, you can face harsher penalties for shoplifting. Penal Code 666 PC defines the offense of petty theft with a prior. If you are convicted of petty theft and you have certain prior convictions, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
PC 666 allows for a sentencing enhancement if you:
- Have a prior conviction of a theft offense,
- Have served a term in prison or jail for the theft conviction, and
- Have a prior conviction for a certain sex crime or violent offense.
Petty theft with a prior conviction can be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a felony punishable by up to three years in jail.
What Defenses Can Be Raised if I’m Accused of Shoplifting in Los Angeles, CA?
There are many possible legal defenses available in shoplifting cases. Your Los Angeles shoplifting defense attorney will investigate your case to help you craft the best possible defense.
- Civil Compromise: To resolve your shoplifting charge, a civil compromise may be a good option. This involves agreeing to repay the merchant for their losses in exchange for dropping charges.
- Informal Diversion: Informal diversion may also be a good option to avoid jail time and a criminal record. We may recommend this option for first-time offenders if the prosecution has strong evidence such as video surveillance.
- Mistake of Fact: Your defense may also involve a mistake of fact. You should not be convicted if we can show that you did not intend to steal. You may not have been the person to switch price tags or conceal an item or you may have inadvertently forgotten to pay for merchandise or return it to a shelf.
- Mistaken Identity: Your case may involve mistaken identity. A busy employee or loss prevention staff may falsely accuse you of shoplifting if you were wearing similar clothing as the actual offender.
- Lack of Evidence: A charge of shoplifting requires proving several elements including that you entered the store with the intent to steal. It can be very difficult for the prosecution to show your state of mind and intent beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will likely attempt to establish intent based on your statements after arrest. This is why it’s crucial to contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible after arrest.
Finally, we will investigate your case for any police misconduct or violation of your rights. If your constitutional rights were violated, evidence may be excluded from trial.
Schedule a Free Case Review with Our Theft Crimes Lawyers in Los Angeles
A theft conviction can affect you for the rest of your life. You may face difficulty getting into college and qualifying for financial aid, renting an apartment, and obtaining employment. At The Rodriguez Law Group, we believe you deserve the best possible legal defense to fight for your rights and future.
Contact our law office to schedule your free consultation with a Los Angeles shoplifting attorney who will fight for you.