What Punishment Do I Face for Shoplifting? Probation?
I then verify that the value of value of the items allegedly taken is less than $950 (the limit for petty theft), that the shoplifting did not involve a firearm and that the items were not taken from a person, as this would no longer be shoplifting.The Reader’s Digest Version: Shoplifting is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, plus penalties and assessments. Under certain circumstances when one has a certain prior criminal history, it can be charged as a felony, even under the new Prop 47.
I then explain what the minimum punishments set forth by statute are, followed by what is dictated by the facts of the case and the prosecutor’s discretion. I do my best to explain how plea bargaining works are what types of arguments and information matter.
In the vast majority of cases, especially first-time shoplifting cases, the client will not spend one day in jail and the fine is anywhere from $150, plus penalties and assessments, to $250, plus penalties and assessments.
The client usually also must pay a booking fee to the city that booked him or her, if the person was booked.
When the value of the items is $50 or less, the shoplifting can be charged as an infraction. The fine on such an infraction is up to $250, plus penalties and assessments. The advantage to pleading to an infraction is that there is no probation associated with an infraction and an infraction is the same level of a crime as a parking ticket, so it is often not even looked at by employers, landlords or anyone else reviewing one's criminal history.
Other times, prosecutors were amenable to amending the complaint to allege a violation of Penal Code § 415(2) (Disturbing the Peace by playing one’s music at a high level) or Penal Code § 602 (Trespassing) to spare the client a conviction for a crime involving dishonesty, as such a conviction can have adverse employment effects. Sometimes, the prosecutor would allow our client to plead to 415(2) or 602 as an infraction. These ways to resolve a case are getting harder and harder to as of late.
In discussing the case with the client, it is inevitable, it seems, that the discussion shifts to ways of having a shoplifting case dismissed via a civil compromise (Penal Code §§ 1378 and 1379). This is done through a motion that shows the defendant has paid the “victim” for all damages, which often include items damaged during the crime and loss prevention expenses, and that the victim is no longer interested in prosecution. A further discussion of this motion should be undertaken with one’s attorney. This law firm has written a separate article on this topic and it is posted on our website.
Likewise, if one has one prior theft-related conviction and a sex crime conviction for which one must register as a sex offender under Penal Code § 290, or one has a prior serious felony conviction (as defined under Penal Code § 1192.7) or a prior violent felony (as defined under Penal Code § 667.5(c)), the minor shoplifting charge also can be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. When it is filed as misdemeanor, the maximum jail time one faces is six months or one year if one has a prior petty theft.
When the case is filed a felony, the minimum prison term is sixteen months and the maximum term is three years. If the client has prior strike offenses, the sentence can be doubled.
For more information about shoplifting, click on the following articles:
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