It happens more often than you might realize. You are shopping at a retail store, get what you need, and go through the checkout line. As you leave the store, you are stopped by security. Next thing you know, you're talking to the police. They are searching for you because you allegedly stole something from the store, and now you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting.
Whether it was an oversight or a bad mistake on your part, a shoplifting conviction on your record can result in numerous problems. It is largely viewed as a crime involving moral turpitude and can negatively impact certain aspects of your life. Anyone who pulls a background report on you will see it on your criminal record, and it could cast a shadow on your integrity to potential landlords or employers.
A petty theft offense like shoplifting is not something that you want to follow you for the rest of your life. A brief moment of poor judgment, a mistake, or an accident should not follow you forever, especially if you make it right and correct the problem. At The Law Offices of Frances Prizzia, we have an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense legal team, and we're ready to go to work for you.
When you choose to work with our law firm, you can rest assured that we will work hard to protect your rights and get the best possible outcome for your case. Call today for your free consultation and put us to work, working for you.
Stealing property that does not belong to you is serious and can carry harsh penalties. Still, at The Law Offices of Frances Prizzia, we focus on taking the necessary steps to reduce your charges or dismiss your case. We aren't here to judge you or lecture you. We are here to protect your rights and ensure that your day in court has the best outcome possible.
We will be at your side every step of the way, from beginning to end. If you have questions, we're here. When you enter that courtroom, we'll be right beside you. At every step in the legal process, we will ensure you understand what is going on and your options. That way, you can make informed decisions about your case and your future.
A. Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation - Your initial consultation is free, and a legal team member will have a sit-down session to review your case. We'll advise you on the next steps to take and what you may be looking at when you go to court. When you choose to have our team represent you, we will give your case the utmost importance - because we care about you and your future.
B. Collecting Evidence and Investigating the Circumstances of the Arrest - When we go to work for you, one of the first things we will do is begin our own investigation of the details concerning the alleged crime and your arrest. We will collect evidence of all types, including witness testimonies, physical evidence, and expert witnesses if needed. This will help us build your shoplifting defense strategy.
C. Evaluating Surveillance Footage and Witness Statements - Not all witness statements are good for your case. We will evaluate your witnesses and their testimonies and statements. We'll also review surveillance footage to see if there is anything that will work in your favor. If there is evidence to be found to support your case, we'll work tirelessly to find it.
D. Identifying Potential Defenses - We construct defense strategies on a case-by-case basis, but there are some that work with nearly all cases, although they may need to be tweaked a bit. Some of the common defenses of the petty theft crime of shoplifting are lack of intent, mistaken identity, consent to possess the item, and belief of ownership or right.
E. Presenting a Compelling Defense Strategy in Court - In court, we will present your defense strategy I'm the most compelling way possible. We will ensure that your story is told and the jury hears your side. We will work diligently to secure a reduction in your charges, get you a good plea bargain, or get your case dismissed.
California Penal Code § 459.5 PC breaks down the crime of shoplifting into four key elements that must be met:
The law goes on to explain that any other type of entry into the establishment with the intent to steal is the crime of burglary.
Shoplifting is a misdemeanor, but a person with prior convictions (one or more) of certain crimes may receive harsher penalties.
If a person is charged with shoplifting, they cannot also be charged with theft or burglary of the same property.
Shoplifting is petty theft, but other related theft crime charges can get you into some serious legal hot water. Theft is taking someone else's property to deprive them of it permanently, but it is more complex than just setting out to steal property. These are some of the other theft crimes.
Petty theft occurs when the property stolen has a value of less than $950. It is a misdemeanor but can get you some time in the county jail.
Theft of real or personal property valued at more than $950 is regarded as grand theft. This a wobbler offense and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or it can get you felony charges.
Breaking, or burglary, is entering a home or business intending to steal property or commit a felony. Forced entry is not necessary to be charged with this crime.
Robbery is taking personal property that belongs to someone else and is in their immediate presence. It is achieved by fear or force.
The prosecution must prove three elements in petty theft crimes, like shoplifting, beyond a reasonable doubt. Those elements are:
If the prosecutor proves these things, the crime is considered shoplifting.
Although Senate Bill 553 makes it illegal for employers to require their employees to confront shoplifters, shoplifting is still a crime. If you are stopped and accused of shoplifting, you can best cooperate physically but remain silent. In other words, don't fight, especially if it is a police officer.
Listen to the police officer, but don't talk. Don't try to talk your way out of it, even if you are falsely accused. Don't try to bargain with the officer. Don't try to explain anything. You should only say that you want to talk to your attorney. Then you call your Orange County criminal lawyer and let them handle it.
California law classifies shoplifting as a misdemeanor, but it can carry a punishment of up to six months in the county jail as well as a fine of as much as $1,000. If the accused has prior convictions, those penalties can be even harsher. Those prior convictions include:
Penalties can also include community service, probation, and diversion programs for first-offense shoplifting offenders.
Shoplifting crimes that are misdemeanors carry a sentence of up to six months of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
Shoplifting charges that are convicted as felonies carry a sentence of up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The state of California has a first-time offender program that allows defendants with no prior convictions to avoid jail time. The District Attorney must agree, but once that happens, the defendant may enter the program, which may require them to pay restitution, attend classes, and submit to counseling or a treatment program. These programs typically run for about a year, but some can run longer.
The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) you entered the business that was open to the public during its normal hours of operation and 2) that you entered that business with the intention of stealing something.
Several common defenses are often used in shoplifting cases. These include:
Don't wait to see what happens if you are facing shoplifting charges. You need a criminal defense attorney fast, and The Law Offices of Frances Prizzia can help. We will vigorously fight to safeguard your rights and get your charges reduced. We can help you avoid jail time so that you get community service instead - or your case could be dismissed altogether.
Don't let theft charges affect your future. Call today, and let us fight for you.
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