Beverly Hills, Shoplifting at Trader Joe's, Case Dismissed

Our client was arrested for shoplifting two bottles of wine from a well-known grocery store.   She was 25, with no prior record, and had a promising career in fashion before her.  She was a college graduate.  The value of the two bottles of wine was just over $50.  She was caught red-handed, as the saying goes. 

At the time, she was with her new boyfriend, heading to a Christmas party.  The two were intending on making the wine a gift to the party host.

A loss prevention officer walking the store floor spotted our client.  We found this quite remarkable because our office knows that this particular store has no store security video cameras in any of its stores, allegedly because it respects the privacy of its devoted shoppers.

Our client was charged with a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code § 484(a), petty theft, in the  Beverly Hills Superior Court.  It merits mention that cases which previously would have been filed in this courthouse are now filed in the Airport Courthouse. 

In this case, which took place about 2010, the Beverly Hills District Attorney would not agree to a reduction of charges to an infraction under Penal Code § 490.1, as the items stolen were not for the “necessities of life.”  We found this refusal a bit silly, as the items were food related.

The charges and a plea bargain thereto was extremely problematic for our client, as in her field, a conviction involving a crime of dishonesty is a career ender.  She had a professional license from the State of California and any conviction had to be immediately reported.  She knew that such a report would immediately result in the suspension of her license.  While the license would eventually be reinstated, the time off of work would be problematic and expensive for her (certainly not worth $50 in wine, had she succeeded in stealing the wine).

The initial offer from the district attorney was a $300 fine, plus penalties and assessments (this would total approximately $1,300), twenty-four months of summary probation and a stay away order from any stores in the chain of stores where the incident occurred.  Our client would also have to pay the booking fee, which was close to $400.

Our office worked closely with the store where the incident occurred and negotiated a letter wherein the store agreed to state that it was not desirous of further criminal prosecution in exchange for our client’s payment of certain investigation costs, also called loss prevention expenses, the store incurred in connection with its loss prevention department operations related to the theft.

Our office then filed a Motion for Civil Compromise under Penal Code sections 1377 and 1378, which the Court granted over the District Attorney’s objections.  The case was dismissed in its entirety.

It merits mention that such a letter from any store is very hard to obtain in most cases.  Stores do not want thieves to feel they “got away” with anything.  The stores want to “send a message” that shoplifting is simply never tolerated. 

For more information about the issues in this theft offense case summary, click on the following articles:
  1. What Punishment Do I Face for Shoplifting?
  2. What is Shoplifting and Its Defense?
  3. What is a Motion for Civil Compromise?
For more information about theft and robbery crimes, please click here to watch our theft offenses video.

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