Shoplifting is not limited to the mere act of taking something from a store without paying for it. If you change the price tag on an item to avoid paying the full cost, or if you eat food in a grocery store without paying for it, you are shoplifting. When you find yourself accused of shoplifting, it can be easy to assume these accusations are no big deal since this is one of the most common juvenile crimes out there, but these charges can leave you in jail, which is why it is critical to hire a Vista theft lawyer if you have been accused of this crime.
Shoplifting Charges in California
In California, shoplifting is most often charged either as petty theft, a misdemeanor, or as grand theft, which may be a misdemeanor or felony. If the merchandise stolen was valued at more than $950, the crime will most likely be charged as grand theft. In some cases, shoplifters will even be accused of burglary, a felony, if prosecutors and police believe the defendant entered the store with the intent to steal. If you physically resisted the people who tried to arrest you, you may be charged with robbery, also a felony. If you have been charged with multiple charges, a good Vista shoplifting defense attorney may be able to have some charges dropped or reduced.
Potential Penalties for Shoplifting Charges
In most cases, first time shoplifters will generally be charged with a misdemeanor even if they have been charged with grand theft because the value of the goods was over $950, but if the value of the stolen item was particularly high, the crime might still be a felony. Misdemeanor charges are punishable by no more than one year in jail for grand theft or six months in jail for petty theft. In fact, in some cases where the value of stolen goods was under $50, your Vista shoplifting defense lawyer may be able to convince the prosecution to charge petty theft as an infraction, meaning you will not face any jail time at all and the offense will not end up on your criminal record. If you are convicted of felony shoplifting, you could face up to three years in prison.
It is important to remember that you can fight and win against these charges or at very least end up with a plea bargain that minimizes the charges against you. Common defenses include having an item in the bottom of your cart that you meant to pay for, but simply forgot about or that you were stopped by security before leaving store property and that you were going to pay for the merchandise but you were denied the chance.
Alternatively, the District Attorney has a new program for some petty theft cases where they offer a modified diversion program. The program requires the defendant to plead guilty, take a shoplifting class, then get charges dismissed. There is concern, however, that a plea of guilty still might create the perception on a background check that the person was, in fact, convicted of petty theft.
Whatever the specifics of your shoplifting case, it is important you not speak with the police until you have your Vista theft lawyer present. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.
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