The state of California does not have specific laws addressing the act of shoplifting. Instead, this offense falls under the general theft category. As such, the formal charge filed against you would probably read as “theft by shoplifting.”
Most shoplifting charges arise after the unlawful taking of relatively cheap items like a pair of socks or cosmetics. However, those caught stealing valuable items from a retail establishment can face harsh consequences.
The value of stolen items makes a difference
The theft laws in California fall into two categories: petty theft and grand theft. If the stolen item is worth $50 or less, it is an infraction and is punishable by a fine of up to $250. For petty theft of items valued at between $50 and $950, the possible sentence is six months in jail and a fine approaching $1,000.
When the value of stolen items is more than $950, you could face grand theft charges. Even then, the theft by shoplifting offense usually remains a misdemeanor unless it involves stealing a firearm. In this case, it is a felony punishable by a sentence of up to three years in state prison.
Possible defenses against shoplifting include the following:
- Mistake or lack of criminal intent
- Duress or coercion
- Mental incapacity
- Owner permission or consent
- Justifiable or necessary
If the defendant a child younger than 14 years, they typically won’t be held responsible for theft by shoplifting.
Even though shoplifting seems minor, a conviction will mar your record and disrupt your life. When facing any criminal charge, mounting a defense can mitigate many hardships that might otherwise arise and could help you avoid a jail term. Learning more about the laws governing theft and shoplifting can help you determine what steps to take in the wake of an arrest.