Rolling Hills Estates, Shoplifting, Plea to Infraction 490.1

Our client, a recent college graduate, was caught shoplifting approximately $41 in make-up and hair care product from the TJ Maxx in the Peninsular Center Mall in Rolling Hills Estates.  Our client had no prior criminal history.
Synopsis:  Rolling Hills Estates, 22-year-old client caught shoplifting make-up at Peninsula Center, charged with violating Penal Code § 484(a), case resolved for infraction (Penal Code § 490.1) and fine.
Loss prevention at the store stopped our client as she was opening the door to her car in the parking lot.  They escorted her back inside the store and took her to a back office, where she stayed for about two hours until the Lomita Sheriffs came to take her to their station for booking.  This was very embarrassing for our client and while she was being held, loss prevention refused to let our client use her cell phone to tell her parents that she was going to be late returning home.

It should be mentioned here for the reader that not all shoplifting suspects are taken by police to the police station for booking.  Often, police will report to the store at issue and give the suspect a citation that the suspect signs as a promise to appear in court on a future date.  The police then leave the store.  Over the years, our office has tried to explain why certain clients are released from the store and why some are taken to the police station and there seems to be no consistent policy or reason why some people are taken to the station and some are not.  Being booked, it should be noted (as this summary will exemplify) does not mean the case is more serious than a case when the suspect is not booked.

Our client was then charged in the Torrance Superior Court with a single violation of Penal Code § 484(a), “Petty Theft,” a misdemeanor. 

Shocked at the charge, the client called Greg Hill & Associates.  She was confused and fearful of going to jail because she had read on the Internet that one can face up to six months in jail if convicted of such a charge (and she knew she was guilty). 

Greg then met with the client and reassured her that because she had no prior criminal history, because she was young and because of the very low dollar value of the items taken, he did not expect any plea bargain to involve jail time.  However, she would most likely be placed on informal, or summary, probation, with certain terms and conditions that may include community service and fines to pay to the court.

As part of our office’s factual investigation, we requested the store security film from TJ Maxx’s video camera aimed at the entrance and exit to the store.  Usually, we do not get this, although we always request it.

In this case, surprisingly, TJ Maxx sent our office a DVD with the video.  Our office had to review several hours of tape, but finally found the client on film.  The client was looking at text messages on her phone as she walked out of the store, as shown by a store security camera positioned at the doorway.

Our office then spoke with the Torrance City Prosecutor, arguing that our client lacked the specific intent to steal because she was distracted by her phone and not paying attention to paying.  She was certainly more intent on paying attention to her phone.

While the Torrance City Prosecutor was skeptical of such an argument, she agreed it might sway one or two jurors, especially because our client had been medically diagnosed with ADHD, which we argued prevented her from concentrating on anything but which she had interest in at times.

The Torrance City Prosecutor, in response, added a count of an infraction violation of Penal Code § 490.1 and dismissed the § 484 misdemeanor. 

Our client was quite happy with this, as she had to pay a $302 fine to the court and she avoided any form of probation.  Moreover, most employers do not request background checks that include information about infractions, as infractions most commonly include parking tickets, unless the job applicant is applying for a job where parking skill is important.

For more information about the issues in this theft offense case summary, click on the following articles:
  1. What Is Shoplifting and Its Defenses?
  2. What Is the Difference Between an Infraction and a Misdemeanor?
For more information about theft and robbery crimes, please click here to watch our theft offenses video.

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