U.S. businesses lose billions due to shoplifting, fraud, or administrative error every year, according to a report from the National Retail Federation. While penalties for shoplifting are not as serious as for other crimes, you can still face jail time and fines for stealing from your local Walmart. Here’s what you need to know about California’s shoplifting penalties.
What Is Considered Shoplifting?
California law classifies shoplifting as theft, though it’s not as cut and dry as sticking something into your pocket and walking out of the store. Theft refers to actions including feloniously stealing, carrying away, or otherwise appropriating someone else's property, with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of that property. You can be charged with shoplifting if you're suspected of changing the tag on an item with one of a lesser value or finding a receipt in the parking lot, going to the store to track down the item on the receipt and returning it for a refund.
What are the Penalties for Shoplifting?
If it is the first time you are convicted of shoplifting, you could face up to 6 months in county jail and pay a fine of up to $1, 000, as the maximum sentencing under California Penal code 459.5. Typical penalties may include a combination of probation, paying fines, and/or providing community service.
- Items worth $50 or less: If you have no prior record, your shoplifting incident may be considered an infraction and you may be subject to fines of up to $250.
- Items valued between $50 and $950: With no prior record, you face a misdemeanor petty theft charge and a mandatory fine between $50 and $1,000 and/or up to 6 months of jail time.
- Items worth over $950: Depending on your criminal history and the specific circumstances of the theft, you may be charged with misdemeanor or felony petty theft and face up to a year of jail time.
- Special circumstances: You may be charged with felony grand theft, even if the value is below $950, under certain circumstances, including stealing a firearm or having a serious charge on your record. In these cases, you could face up to three years of jail time. However, most offenders are charged with misdemeanor theft.
In addition to criminal penalties, you can be held civilly liable to the owner of the merchandise for damages of at least $50 but not more than $500 and the retail value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in sellable condition.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, please contact the Murrieta criminal defense lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for a free consultation. We understand that your future is on the line and we can fight to secure the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Call (951) 506-6654 or contact us online.