Los Angeles Shoplifting Laws and Penalties
Shoplifting is an embarrassing charge that can unnecessarily complicate your life. Whether you were caught taking a small item from a store or falsely accused of a more serious offense, it's important to understand your legal rights and options.
A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can help. Attorney William Kroger has over 25 years representing people in shoplifting cases. With his guidance, you can minimize the potential consequences of a shoplifting charge and move forward with your life.
When you've been arrested or cited for shoplifting in Los Angeles, the best way to handle it is to have a strong defense. We've successfully helped our clients with getting shoplifting charges reduced or dropped altogether. Contact the Law Offices of William Kroger for a free consultation at (323) 655-5700.What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting in Los Angeles is defined as the act of stealing or taking merchandise from an open retail establishment without paying for it or with the intent to deprive the store of its value. Shoplifting is a theft crime under California Penal Code 495.5. It's a type of petty theft when the value of the item is $950 or less.
Shoplifting can include a wide range of behaviors, such as concealing merchandise in a purse, a pocket, or in a bag. Even if you change your mind and put the concealed items back, you can still be charged with shoplifting. The crime of shoplifting can also be committed by switching price tags or manipulating barcodes to pay less than the actual value of the item.
An example of shoplifting would be two women going into a department store with a premeditated plan of one of the women distracting the salesperson while the other one sneaks items of clothing into her purse.What are the Penalties for Shoplifting in California?
Most of the time shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor offense in California. A charge of misdemeanor shoplifting results in the following penalties:
- Up to 6 months of jail time
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Misdemeanor probation
- Community service
In California, shoplifting is not only a criminal offense but it can also result in civil penalties if you are sued by the store for the loss it incurred. The severity of the penalties depends on the value of the property stolen, the defendant's prior criminal history, and other factors.
Shoplifting does have the possibility of being charged as a felony, but this typically happens if you have prior shoplifting convictions or prior misdemeanor or felony convictions. If the value of the property stolen is $950 or more, shoplifting can be charged as a felony offense in California. A conviction for felony shoplifting can result in up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Additionally, a person convicted of felony shoplifting may face civil penalties, including restitution to the victim, and may be barred from owning or possessing firearms.
In Los Angeles, there are no city-specific regulations or codes regarding the penalties for shoplifting. The penalties for shoplifting in Los Angeles are the same as those outlined under California state law. However, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may have their own policies or procedures for handling shoplifting cases.
If you or someone you know has been charged with shoplifting in California or Los Angeles, it's important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can answer all your questions and provide you with representation.Why Choose Criminal Defense Attorney William Kroger for Your Shoplifting Case?
William S. Kroger is a highly successful criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. He has over 30 years of experience in the field of criminal law and a proven track record of success, with a 95% success rate on cases he has taken on. Mr. Kroger has helped numerous clients facing shoplifting charges get the best possible outcomes for their cases.
Here are just a few reasons why clients choose William Kroger for their shoplifting cases:
- Results: With a 95% success rate. Mr. Kroger has a proven track record of achieving favorable outcomes for his clients. He has successfully defended clients facing a wide range of criminal charges, including shoplifting, and knows what it takes to build a strong defense.
- Client Testimonials: Mr. Kroger's clients have nothing but praise for his skill, dedication, and professionalism as noted by the client reviews he’s received.
- Skilled Negotiator: Mr. Kroger is a skilled negotiator who can bring the fight to the prosecution, judge, or jury, saving clients time, money, and reputation. He knows how to build a strong case and is not afraid to challenge powerful adversaries.
- Unwavering Ally: Mr. Kroger is an unwavering ally who is not afraid to take on tough cases and fight for his client’s rights. He has a deep understanding of the criminal mind and how law enforcement agencies gather evidence and build cases against defendants.
- Expert Analysis: William Kroger is a respected author, expert, and influencer and is frequently sought out by the media for his insights, expert analysis, and commentary on legal issues. He is a recognized authority in the field of criminal law and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon.
In California, shopkeepers have the legal right to stop and detain individuals whom they reasonably suspect of shoplifting. This is known as the "shopkeeper's privilege," and it allows store employees to detain suspected shoplifters for a reasonable amount of time, until the arrival of law enforcement.
The shopkeeper's privilege is codified under California Penal Code Section 490.5, which states that "any merchant, or the merchant's agent or employee, who has probable cause to believe that a person has willfully taken or concealed merchandise owned or held by the merchant, may detain that person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time to conduct an investigation."
It's important to note that the privilege only applies if the merchant has probable cause to believe that shoplifting has occurred. This means that there must be some evidence or circumstances that suggest that a theft has taken place. Additionally, the detention must be conducted in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable amount of time. Using excessive force or detaining someone for an extended period could result in civil liability or criminal charges for false imprisonment.
If someone is detained under the shopkeeper's privilege, they must be informed of the reason for the detention and the fact that law enforcement is being called. The individual must also be allowed to leave if the investigation reveals that they did not commit shoplifting.
Shopkeeper's privilege only applies to merchants and their employees, and not to private security personnel who are not directly employed by the merchant. Additionally, if a person is wrongfully detained or subjected to excessive force during detention, they may have legal recourse against the merchant or their employees.
In summary, if you are suspected of shoplifting in a store in California, the shopkeeper's privilege allows the store employees to detain you for a reasonable amount of time until law enforcement arrives, provided that they have probable cause to believe that a theft has occurred. The detention must be conducted in a reasonable manner, and you must be informed of the reason for the detention and allowed to leave if the investigation reveals that you did not commit shoplifting.How to Prove Shoplifting in Court Understanding the Prosecution's Burden of Proof
In Los Angeles, to prove someone guilty of shoplifting, a prosecutor or city attorney would generally need to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant took possession of merchandise that was offered for sale by a merchant or retailer;
- The defendant intended to take the merchandise without paying for it or intending to pay less than the full retail value of the merchandise;
- The defendant moved the merchandise, even if only a short distance; and
- The defendant did not have the consent of the merchant or retailer to take the merchandise.
If the prosecutor can prove all of these elements, the defendant may be found guilty of shoplifting. The severity of the crime and potential penalties may vary based on the value of the stolen merchandise, prior criminal record, and other factors.What are Some Legal Defenses for Shoplifting?
- Lack of Intent: Shoplifting requires the intent to steal. If a person accidentally walks out of a store with an item or genuinely believed that they paid for the item, they may have a valid defense against shoplifting charges.
- Mistake of Fact: In some cases, a person may have a mistaken belief that they had permission to take an item, or that an item was theirs to take. If the mistake was reasonable and not the result of negligence or recklessness, it may be a defense to shoplifting charges.
- Consent: If a person had permission from the store owner or an employee to take the item, this could be a valid defense against shoplifting charges.
- False Accusation: In some cases, a person may be falsely accused of shoplifting. This could occur due to mistaken identity or malicious intent by a store employee or security personnel. A skilled defense attorney can investigate the facts of the case to determine if this defense is viable.
- Coerced Confession: If a person was coerced or pressured into confessing, that confession may be inadmissible in court. For example, if a store employee threatened physical harm or made false promises to elicit a confession, this could be a valid defense against shoplifting charges.
- Illegal Search or Seizure: If store employees or law enforcement officers violated a person's constitutional rights by conducting an illegal search or seizure, any evidence obtained as a result of that search may be inadmissible in court.
It's worth noting that each case is unique, and the viability of a particular defense will depend on the specific facts of the case. If you or someone you know is facing shoplifting charges, it's important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help avoid unnecessary jail time or penalties.Build a Strong Defense Strategy
Having an experienced attorney can help you get the best possible defense in a shoplifting case. There are numerous different defenses against the charge of shoplifting. Perhaps you never went into the store intending to steal anything, or maybe it was a case of mistaken identity or maybe you had the permission of the owner to take it in the first place.
Wandering around with an item and accidentally leaving the store with it has happened to countless people and it does not make them criminals. Whatever the circumstances are in your case, we can help build your defense.Frequently Asked Questions About Shoplifting in Los Angeles What is the difference between grand theft and shoplifting in California?
Grand theft is a more serious crime than shoplifting. Grand theft occurs when someone steals property worth more than $950, while shoplifting involves stealing property worth less than that amount. Grand theft can be charged as a felony, while shoplifting is usually charged as a misdemeanor.Can a shoplifting charge ever be elevated to grand theft?
Yes, under certain circumstances, a shoplifting charge can be elevated to grand theft. If the value of the stolen property exceeds $950 or the defendant has a prior conviction for theft-related offenses, the charge can be elevated to grand theft.What are the penalties for grand theft in California?
The penalties for grand theft in California depend on the value of the stolen property and whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor grand theft conviction can result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A felony grand theft conviction can result in up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.Can I get my shoplifting charge expunged from my record?
Yes, under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to have your shoplifting charge expunged from your record. In California, you may be eligible for expungement if you complete probation and comply with all court orders.Do I have to pay a civil demand letter after being caught shoplifting?
No, you are not legally required to pay a civil demand letter after being caught shoplifting. Civil demand letters are typically sent by stores or their attorneys to demand payment for damages. However, paying the demand may be used against you in court as an admission of guilt.Can a criminal defense attorney help me avoid a conviction for grand theft?
Yes, a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you fight a grand theft charge and potentially avoid a conviction. They may be able to negotiate a plea bargain or argue for a reduction in charges based on the specific circumstances of your case. It's important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.Contact A Los Angeles Shoplifting Defense Lawyer
Being charged with shoplifting can be very distressing. Many of the clients we have defended over the years were caught shoplifting because of some type of major stress in their lives.
At William Kroger Attorney at Law, we understand the importance of getting these charges lowered or altogether dismissed. We've dealt with many shoplifting cases and have a strong grasp of how these cases are handled by the courts.
We will use our years of experience to help you and give you the best defense. If you've been charged with petty theft or shoplifting in Los Angeles, call our office at (323) 655-5700 or online to schedule a free consultation.