When you are charged with shoplifting, you may be feeling distraught and embarrassed. Maybe it was a misunderstanding or a simple mistake. Whatever the circumstances are, a shoplifting offense can be stressful to deal with on your own. You may be facing criminal charges punishable by hefty fines or potential jail time. Your reputation and public record may also be at stake.
There can be many advantages to having an experienced San Diego shoplifting attorney by your side. The right attorney will be able to explain the charges to you, and help protect your legal rights. Contact McElfresh Law today to meet with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and get your legal questions answered.
What is Shoplifting?
Under California law, shoplifting is considered a theft offense. According to California Penal Code 484, you are guilty of theft when you “feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another.” Stolen property can incorporate personal belongings or business merchandise.
In addition, California Penal Code 459.5 defines shoplifting as the act of “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours.”
Shoplifting offenses are weighed based on the value of stolen goods. Typically, there are two categories:
- Petty theft: when you enter a place of commerce during business hours with the intent to steal, and the total stolen property is valued at $950 or less.
Example: Taking off with a bag of groceries from the supermarket without paying for it.
- Grand theft: when you steal goods valued at $950 or more, or unlawfully take any type of firearm.
Example: Purchasing multiple large screen TVs with a fraudulent credit card.
Penalties for Shoplifting Offenses in California
While the majority of shoplifting offenses are considered misdemeanors, penalties can vary depending on the situation. Potential penalties you can receive upon conviction include:
- Probation, and a fine up to $250, if the value of stolen goods is less than $50, and it is your first offense (infraction).
- Imprisonment up to six months, and a fine up to $1,000, if the value of stolen goods is less than $950, and it is your first offense (misdemeanor).
- Imprisonment from 16 months to three years, if the value of stolen goods is greater than $950, or you commit firearm theft (misdemeanor/felony).
Furthermore, you may face civil charges brought on by the business owner, if your actions damaged their merchandise. The owner can claim certain losses when their products become devalued or are no longer sellable after a shoplifting incident.
- Changing or defacing the price tag of an item
- Purposefully defacing a product to reduce the price
- Damaging any stolen goods during transport
How a San Diego Shoplifting Attorney Can Help
Being convicted of a shoplifting crime can result in many negative consequences. However, a knowledgeable San Diego shoplifting attorney will be able to help you build a solid defense. Common legal defenses to fight against a shoplifting charge include:
- You intended to pay for the item, and did not intend to shoplift
- The item was unknowingly placed inside of your bag by mistake
- The store owner is falsely accusing you
- You previously purchased the item from the same store
- There is insufficient evidence to prove shoplifting
How a San Diego Shoplifting Attorney Can Help You
When you’re charged with shoplifting in the San Diego area, you should hire an attorney with knowledge of California theft laws, and experience in handling similar cases. The dedicated legal team at McElfresh Law is ready and prepared to fight on your behalf. Attorney Jessica McElfresh has years of experience in defending criminal cases, and she can walk you through every step of the legal proceeding. She can assess your individual situation, and devise a strategy to reach an optimal outcome. As a skilled negotiator, McElfresh may also be able to strike a plea bargain with the prosecutor for reduced sentencing.
We believe that everyone deserves quality representation, and we are 100 percent committed to defending your constitutional freedoms. Contact the San Diego criminal defense attorney with McElfresh Law today at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a free and confidential evaluation with a knowledgeable San Diego shoplifting attorney.