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Shoplifting/Petty Theft

Petty Theft Law in California - Penal Code 484 PC

Petty theft is one of the most common types of theft crimes charged by prosecutors. While most of these cases involve shoplifting, petty theft under California Penal Code 484 PC and Penal Code 488 PC can include any theft crime that meets the following criteria (1) The value of the property is less than $950 (2) The property was not taken directly from someone else (3) The property was not a vehicle or gun.

Again, while most petty theft allegations involve shoplifting, which is petty theft by larceny, the prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime, including:

  • You took possession of another person's property without consent
  • When you took the property, you had intent to remove it from the owner's possession
  • You moved the property and kept it for a period of time
  • The value of the property was $950 of less

Shoplifting is typically described as taking a small amount of merchandise from a retail store illegally, and can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the value of the items taken.

Petty theft is the unlawful acquisition of a person or business's property without their consent whose value does not exceed a certain amount. In most cases this amount is $950.

Related offenses include grand theft, burglary, embezzlement, defrauding an innkeeper, and  robbery. If you have prior theft crime convictions, you could face enhanced penalties for petty theft with a prior under California Penal Code 666.

Being charged and convicted with shoplifting or petty theft can be a very serious matter. It can carry penalties ranging from fines, restitution, community service and even prison time, depending on the seriousness and severity of the infraction.

A conviction on a shoplifting or petty theft charge, and the resulting criminal record, can follow you for years into the future and make it difficult for you to get a job, hold certain professional licenses, and apply for credit, among other things.

If you have been accused of petty theft, contact our criminal defense lawyers to review the details and legal options. The following theft crimes can be charged under the petty theft laws if the value of the property is less than $950:

Types of Petty Theft

Petty theft by larceny happens when you unlawfully take property from someone else with the intent to deprive them of its use and move it some distance.

Petty theft by trick occurs when convince someone using fraud or deceit, to consent to give you possession of their property.

Typically, the victim has the belief you are only taking temporary possession of their property, but you had intent to keep it permanently or an extended period of time.

Petty theft by embezzlement occurs when you take someone's property that has been entrusted to you. The owner must not had the intent to give up ownership of the property, but you abuse your authority to use the entrusted property for your own benefit.

Petty theft by fraud happens when you intentionally lie to convince someone else to give you their property. The property owner must not have had the intent under normal circumstances to give you ownership of their property.

Rather, they relied on the false information you provided them and gave up possession of their property.

What are the Legal Penalties?

Petty theft is normally a misdemeanor crime carrying up to six months in jail, court fines, restitution and stay-away orders. Some prosecutor's will reduce a petty theft charge to an infraction under California Penal Code Section 490.1 while others will agree to allow a first-time petty theft defendant to complete a diversion program in order to avoid a criminal conviction. Perhaps you are eligible for a civil compromise.

If you have a prior petty theft conviction, you could be charged with petty theft with a prior pursuant to California Penal Code Section 666, which is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor crime. A felony carries a maximum sentence of three years in a California state prison. A petty theft conviction would go on a your criminal record and visible to future employers and landlords, among others.

Charged with Theft in California?

A charge of shoplifting or petty theft can be a very unpleasant and humiliating experience. If you have been charged with a shoplifting or petty theft crime, you should contact one of our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys.

Our attorneys will pursue your case aggressively to protect your rights. We fully investigate the allegations and evidence being used against you to find weaknesses in the case and to see that your rights were not violated at any time during the investigation.

If we find that they were, we will take immediate action in an attempt to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Contact our office today to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.

At Cron, Israels & Stark, we are committed to helping you reach the most favorable outcome in your case. We are available during regular business hours or by appointment during evenings and weekends.

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