What Is 459 PC – California’s Shoplifting Law?

Shoplifting is a crime in California that falls under Penal Code 459.5. If you are facing shoplifting accusations, you should get legal help from a criminal defense lawyer in your area who has experience, courtroom skills, and can be trusted to put your best interests forward. While shoplifting may not sound like a serious crime, it can result in many penalties. These penalties include criminal penalties, civil penalties, and collateral damage to your future.

Under California’s law, shoplifting is defined in the following words: “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).” Larceny in this definition is California’s word for theft.

A key word in the above definition is “intent.” The prosecutor in any case of shoplifting must show that the shoplifter intended to steal. Another important aspect of this law is that it includes “intended to be taken” as well as having actually taken. This means that, even if you were caught while inside the store without having left it with the merchandise, you could be charged with shoplifting.

Have you or someone you know been charged with shoplifting in Riverside County? Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich can help with experienced criminal defense representation. Contact us at (951) 506-6654 for a free consultation.

Penalties for Shoplifting

Shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor. Penalties can include:

  • Up to six months in a county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

The consequences of shoplifting can also include civil penalties that are brought by the store owner in a civil claim. Those penalties can include:

  • If the merchandise is not returned in a condition to be sold, its retail value
  • $50 up to $500 in damages
  • Court costs and attorney fees to be reimbursed

In cases where you are the parent of a minor who has been charged with shoplifting, you (or the child’s legal guardians) are held responsible according to California law.

An additional penalty that occurs when you are convicted of a shoplifting charge is a permanent criminal record. It is something you can be questioned about when applying for a job, a housing unit, financial aid, or in seeking professional licensing for a trade or career, such as in real estate, teaching, piloting, as a plumber or electrician or more. This is because your conviction can be easily accessed on a routine background check.

Shoplifting convictions can later be expunged but you will have to go through the expungement process to do so.

Are There Defenses to Shoplifting?

Any criminal charge can be defended but you will need the services of a qualified defense attorney who knows how to do so. A civil compromise can also be put forward that allows you to pay back the store owner for losses. In return, the store owner can agree to not seek to prosecute you. You can also enter into an informal diversion where you plead guilty but agree to court-ordered actions, such as community service hours and repayment to the business owner. Once you complete the program, you will not receive any criminal charges on your record.

You Can Rely on Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich

If you or a family member is facing a shoplifting charge in Riverside County, we strongly advise you to take advantage of the experience, knowledge, and dedication of our legal team. We will do everything possible under the law to help you achieve a favorable outcome and keep your record clean.

Reach out to one of our defenders at (951) 506-6654 to discuss your case today.


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