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Shoplifting Penalties in California

One of the most common theft crimes in California and throughout the United States is shoplifting. According to California law, shoplifting is defined as entering an open commercial establishment with the intent to steal merchandise. 

A state prosecutor must prove the following elements to convict someone of shoplifting: 

  • The defendant entered an open business during normal business hours 

  • The defendant intended to steal items worth up to $950 

Keep in mind, shoplifting charges are not only brought if you leave the store with the merchandise. Rather, the prosecution simply needs to prove you entered the store with the intention to commit shoplifting. 

For example, if you intended to steal merchandise but you were caught in the act, you could still be charged with shoplifting. However, if you decide to steal an item “at the moment,” you did not commit shoplifting because you didn’t plan to steal anything prior to entering the store. 

In California, shoplifting is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail sentence of six months and a fine not exceeding $1,000. If the offense involves more than $950, then the offense is considered burglary

Additionally, shoplifters could be held civilly liable by store owners for the retail value of the item, damages of up to $500, and all associated legal costs. If the shoplifter is under 18 years old, then his/her parents or legal guardians may be held liable. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for shoplifting in Newport Beach or within Orange County, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC today at (949) 251-0330. Get more than 100 years of combined legal experience on your side!