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California’s Highest Court Expands Our State’s Definition of Shoplifting

Posted on in Criminal Defense

San Jose criminal defense lawyers, shopliftingWhen you hear the word shoplifting you likely envision someone wandering around a store pretending to shop while he or she covertly slides merchandise into his or her bag or pockets. But do you think about someone cashing a forged check at a bank? Probably not. However, according to a recent ruling from the California Supreme Court, cashing a forged check can now be classified as shoplifting under some circumstances.

This new ruling comes from the case People v. Gonzales and expands our state’s definition of shoplifting to not only refer to stealing merchandise from a store while pretending to be a customer, but also encompasses other types of theft as well based on the definitions provided in Proposition 47.

People v. Gonzales

The facts surrounding the case of People v. Gonzales are rather straightforward. In 2013, the defendant stole checks from his grandmother’s checkbook, made two checks out to himself (each in the amount of $125), forged his grandmother’s signature on the checks without her permission, and then entered a bank on two separate occasions to cash the checks. The defendant was caught and charged with second degree burglary and forgery.

In exchange for pleading guilty to burglary, the forgery charge was dropped and the defendant was placed on probation for three years. After twice violating the terms of his probation, the defendant’s case eventually made its way through the appellate system in California up to our state’s highest court.

In court, the defendant petitioned to have his original sentence overturned based on the argument that because he entered a commercial establishment (i.e. a bank) during business hours with the intent to steal less than $950, his crime in fact constitutes shoplifting rather than passing a forged check. Eventually the California Supreme Court accepted this argument and ruled that the man committed larceny and that this type of theft can constitute shoplifting under Proposition 47.

Proposition 47 was passed into law by California voters who wanted to reduce jail time and prison sentences for “harmless” crimes such as shoplifting, petty theft, and drug use, as reported in an article published in the Manteca Bulletin. The California Supreme Court ruled that because the term shoplifting is ambiguously defined in Proposition 47, and is subject to more than one reasonable meaning, that the meaning should be interpreted in line with the intent of the voters who passed the proposition. Therefore, in a 5-2 opinion, the court declared that the defendant in this case is eligible to have his conviction for second degree burglary reduced to the lesser crime of misdemeanor shoplifting. This case is an important one as it sets new precedent for shoplifting cases throughout California.

Reach Out to Us Today for Professional Representation

If you have been charged with shoplifting or another petty theft crime in California, contact the experienced San Jose criminal defense lawyers at Jachimowicz Law Group today. Our firm handles a wide variety of criminal defense cases throughout Northern California, the Bay Area, and Monterey Bay and we would be happy to assist you.

Sources:

http://www.bscc.ca.gov/downloads/Agenda%20Item%20D%20Attachment%20D-1.pdf

http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202781931577/People-v-Gonzales?mcode=1202615719493&curindex=1&slreturn=20170304063254

http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/38/article/142632/

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