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Shoplifting in California FAQs

Posted on in Criminal Defense

San Jose criminal defense attorneys, shopliftingShoplifting is sometimes viewed as a crime committed by rebellious kids. However, studies have shown that approximately 75 percent of shoplifters are adults. Additionally, one misconception is that the law views shoplifting as a minor offense that deserves only a slap on the wrist. Be aware that this is not always the case. Shoplifters in California can be sentenced to serve time in jail. Consider the following information to help clear up the confusion. 

Q: Is shoplifting common?

A: According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), shoplifting (or the action of stealing goods from a store while pretending to be a customer) is quite prevalent. The NASP’s website reports that more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years and that there are approximately 27 million shoplifters currently in the United States.

Q: Why are shoplifters sometimes charged with “petty theft” and sometimes with “grand theft”?

A: Under California law, shoplifting is classified as a type of theft crime that can be charged as either petty theft or as grand theft, depending on the value of the merchandise taken by the offender. A suspected shoplifter can be charged with petty theft if the value of the products, goods, or merchandise taken has a value of $950 or less. However, if the value of the stolen items exceeds $950, then the offender can be charged with the more severe crime of grand theft.

Q: What are the penalties for shoplifting in California?

A: Shoplifters in California can be held liable both criminally and civilly. In other words, the government can hold the offender liable by filing criminal charges against him or her and the owner of the stolen merchandise can sue the shoplifter in civil court. Therefore, shoplifters in California may potentially face both criminal and civil penalties as listed below: 

Criminal Penalties:

  • Petty theft is classified as a misdemeanor in California and can be punished by a fine of $50 to $1,000 and/or six months in jail (for a first time petty theft conviction).
  • Grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in California and is generally punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year (or up to three years if the shoplifted item was a firearm). 

Civil Penalties:

  • Shoplifters who are found liable in civil court are generally required to pay damages in the amount of $50 to $500, plus the retail value of any merchandise that was not recovered in sellable condition.

Q: How long will a shoplifting conviction in California stay on my record?

A: Generally speaking, conviction records remain on an individual’s record in California for 100 years, unless it is removed. In order to get a California shoplifting conviction removed from your record, you must generally petition the court to have the record “expunged."

Q: Am I eligible to have my misdemeanor shoplifting conviction expunged in California?

A: California Penal Code section 1203.4 gives courts the power to expunge misdemeanor criminal convictions if the following eligibility requirements are met:

  • It has been at least one year since the conviction;
  • The offender has fully complied with the court’s sentence;
  • The offender is not currently serving another sentence; and
  • The offender is not currently charged with another offense.

Be aware that while expungements can be very beneficial and can help you move on from mistakes that you may have made in the past, they are a complicated legal tool and can be a bit confusing. If you are interested in expunging a conviction from your record be sure to consult with a local expungement lawyer about your legal options.

Contact Us for Professional Help

If you are facing shoplifting charges in California, retain an experienced shoplifting attorney without delay. Even if you were caught on camera, or have already confessed, it is important to have a skilled lawyer who is well versed in California’s theft laws by your side in order to negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf. At Jachimowicz Law Group our experienced San Jose criminal defense attorneys are committed to zealously defending the rights of each and every one of our clients and would be happy to fight for you.









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