Basic Concept of the California Shoplifting Laws
California is home to some of the most expensive retail stores in the US and considers shoplifting as a severe crime. California Penal Code 459.5 defines shoplifting as entering an open business with the intent of stealing less than $950. Stealing more than $950 is considered burglary.
According to California law, there is another way that a person can be accused of shoplifting. If a person gets into a bank and cashes a fraudulent check, they are guilty of shoplifting, provided the amount of money taken was less than $950. The reason for this is that the individual entered a place of business, bank, and stole the money using a fake check.
For a prosecutor to convict a person for shoplifting, they would need to prove that the person entered an open commercial establishment during regular business days, and they intended to steal merchandise worth $950 or less.
Shoplifting in California may constitute petty theft or grand theft, depending on the value of the items. Petty theft ranges from an infraction to a misdemeanor offense. California shoplifting laws state that when the offense involves property with a value of up to $50, it is up to the prosecutor to charge it as an infraction or misdemeanor. The maximum fine for shoplifting up to $50 worth of property is $250. If the property value is worth more than $50, it is punishable by up to $1,000 fines and six months in jail.
California law considers shoplifting of items that are worth more than $950 as grand theft. It is a misdemeanor offense with penalties of up to one year in jail. However, if grand theft involves shoplifting a firearm, it is a felony and is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment.
In addition to criminal penalties, an adult or emancipated minor shoplifter, or parents/legal guardians of a minor who commits shoplifting, 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.
California shoplifting laws provide several defenses to people charged with shoplifting. Some of the offenses may include cases of factual innocence, police misconduct, and lack of intent.