A shoplifting charge is a serious crime in California, whether it is your first offense or your fifth. Now that you and your friend are facing shoplifting charges, you probably think you will get off without any trouble since it is your first time. This is not true. And as a result, you attempt to handle the petty theft charge on your own.
Without a criminal defense attorney providing representation for you, you place limits on your options – meaning the court is less likely to listen to your side of the story, and you may receive unfair treatment as you go through the criminal process.
If you and your friend are facing charges for a petty theft crime, you should immediately hire a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in shoplifting and petty theft.
What Exactly is Shoplifting?
California law describes shoplifting as a theft by larceny. This happens when you take someone’s else’s property, without their permission, with the intention of permanently depriving them.
Below are some examples of shoplifting:
- The San Diego shoplifting ring in which 22 people were stealing more than $20 million in merchandise from U.S. high-end malls to sell the items in Mexico.
- A KTLA news report showing California women stealing laundry detergent and toiletries at Dollar General, and being confronted by a store employee.
How can the Prosecutor Prove My Shoplifting Charge?
To prove shoplifting, under California law, the prosecutor must establish the following elements:
- You took possession of property owned by someone else;
- You entered a commercial establishment with intent to commit the crime;
- The establishment is open during regular business hours; and
- The value of the property stolen is more than $950
Penalties for Shoplifting
Shoplifting is a misdemeanor charge. According to California Penal Code Section 490.5, the misdemeanor results in the following penalties:
- Three years of informal probation
- Six months or less in a county jail
- A fine up to $1000
First-Time Offender Programs
Since you and your friend are first-time offenders, you may qualify for the California petty theft diversion program, or your attorney may be able to get your charge reduced.
The diversion program is a program that allows an offender to avoid punishment for the alleged crime, upon successful completion of the program. The program may take six months or longer to complete and may include:
- Community service
- Behavior modification
The program is a great alternative for you and your friend to look into with your attorney. Eligibility depends on your age and prior criminal record.
New California Diversion Program Allows Victims to Confront Offenders
KUSI News reports that state officials are experimenting with a new diversion program that allows victims to confront offenders. The program will pair victims and offenders before they are convicted, and offenders who complete the program can avoid having a criminal record.
The state-funded program is targeting offenders who do not have extensive criminal histories, but who have committed serious crimes. This is important for you to know just in case you are a part of the new diversion program. Continue reading