• By: Darryl Stallworth, Esq.
  • Published: January 17, 2023

Facing shoplifting charges can be a confusing and certainly overwhelming situation. That is why I strive to help educate the public about what they can expect and how they can proceed when dealing with shoplifting charges. From my office in Oakland, California, my services extend throughout Alameda County, Northern California, San Francisco, and the Bay Area.

What Are Shoplifting Charges Under California Law?

Shoplifting refers to taking items from a shop without paying for them. In other words, shoplifting involves gaining control over a store’s merchandise without issuing payment.

There are several key points to California’s definition of shoplifting:

  • Shoplifting involves an intent to commit a crime. This consideration means that an accidental or unwitting act would not constitute shoplifting.
  • An individual must enter an open establishment during regular business hours. Thus, entering a closed business outside of regular hours may constitute a different charge, such as burglary.
  • The value of the items in question must not exceed $950. Otherwise, more serious charges may be pursued, such as burglary.

Please remember that shoplifting charges hinge on the intent to take merchandise from a store. Therefore, the prosecution must prove there was a clear intent to gain unauthorized control over merchandise.

Felony Vs. Misdemeanor Shoplifting Charges

In California, shoplifting charges are always considered a misdemeanor charge unless the individual has prior convictions or other charges aggravating the shoplifting charge.

For example, taking merchandise from a shop would be a misdemeanor charge for a first offender. However, if the charged individual has prior shoplifting or theft charges, the misdemeanor charge may be changed to grand theft. A grand theft charge is considered a felony and carries more serious penalties than a misdemeanor shoplifting charge.

Additionally, a charged individual may face felony charges if they have been convicted of the following crimes:

  • Sex crimes, including registration as a sex offender
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Any other felonies, particularly violent felonies

An experienced criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecution to clear up the circumstances behind an alleged shoplifting incident. Shoplifting charges may be the result of a misunderstanding or an accident. That is why getting the right legal counsel can significantly impact a charged individual’s defense.

Possible Penalties For Shoplifting Charges

Individuals charged with shoplifting in California often ask, “Can I go to jail for shoplifting?” In short, the answer is yes. However, it depends on the specific circumstances.

Firstly, misdemeanor charges may carry a maximum six-month prison term and a fine of up to $1,000.

Unfortunately, things change significantly with felony charges. Felony charges can lead to a maximum three-year prison term and a $10,000 fine. The jail term must be served at a state facility.

A professional criminal defense attorney can work with prosecutors to get charges right. For example, felony charges may be reduced to misdemeanor ones based on the person’s criminal record and specific circumstances.

Furthermore, first-offenders and folks with a clean criminal record may get probation instead of jail time. Also, cases of unintentional shoplifting may result in charges being dismissed, leaving the individual to pay restitution for the property in question.

In other situations, a criminal defense attorney can help charged individuals and businesses reach an agreement, such as a civil compromise. A civil compromise is an agreement where the charged individual repays costs plus damages. This arrangement can help avoid criminal charges leading to jail time.

Finding A Professional Criminal Defense Attorney In California

At the Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office, I work hard to protect my client’s right to a fair defense. I understand that shoplifting charges are often an honest mistake. Don’t face shoplifting charges alone. Get in touch with my firm for guidance from a professional criminal defense attorney. I proudly serve those in Oakland, California, my services extend throughout Alameda County, Northern California, San Francisco, and the Bay Area.

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Whether you need a drug possession or DUI lawyer, or legal
advice for murder and sexual assault charges, I’m here to advocate
for you. Call Darryl A. Stallworth Law Office at (510) 907-6644

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