Right now, many people are being investigated and arrested for theft-related offenses at local malls throughout Los Angeles County.
The police, prosecutors, and judges are targeting those individuals who are stealing from businesses — especially high-end companies at the mall or in other parts of Los Angeles county.
They're targeting them because these businesses are losing thousands of dollars based on these thefts. A lot of companies are closing down.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with theft, you could be facing a shoplifting or robbery charge, depending on whether there was any violence or threats of violence.
Depending on your criminal record, you could be facing prison time, depending on the amount of money or property taken. There are all sorts of things that can occur to you.
To me, the worst thing that happens if you get convicted of a theft-related offense in addition to potentially going to jail, you ruin your potential future career.
If you get a mark on your record and that mark is theft-related, who will hire you with that on your record? Anybody is going to think this person is not trustworthy.
I can't have them in my business. If they've got a theft-related offense, I can't have them associated with my business. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review below.
Shoplifting Laws in California – Penal Code 459.5 PC
California Penal Code 459.5 is the law often used by prosecutors to charge someone with a misdemeanor shoplifting case. This crime is described as entering an open business with the intent to steal merchandise valued at $950 or less.
PC 459.5 shoplifting is always a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and a fine up to $1,000. The penalties will increase if you have one or more prior theft-related convictions.
The classic shoplifting case involves somebody walking into a store and placing items under their clothes, and walking out without paying for it. The crucial element of the crime in a shoplifting case is “intent,” discussed below. Penal Code 459.5 PC legally defines shoplifting as:
- “Shoplifting is defined as entering an open commercial business with the intent to commit larceny during regular business hours, and the value of the stolen property, or intended to be stolen, is $950 or less.
If you enter a closed commercial business with the intent to commit theft, then you will usually be faced with getting charged with a more severe crime of Penal Code 459 PC burglary.
Suppose you are arrested or given a citation for shoplifting by police. In that case, you will generally receive a “civil demand letter” saying you must pay the retailed restitution, or you will be sued in court.
What Are the Penalties for a Shoplifting Conviction?
PC 459.5 shoplifting is usually a misdemeanor crime that carries the following penalties if you are convicted:
- a maximum up to of 6 months in county jail, and
- a fine of up to $1,000.
If convicted of stealing merchandise from an open business valued at over $950, you will be charged under a separate statute of Penal Code 487 PC grand theft.
Grand theft can be charged as a felony crime that carries penalties of up to three years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The judge will impose the felony penalties if you have a prior conviction for any of the following crimes:
- sex crime that requires PC 290 sex offender registration;
- sex crime of a minor under 14, or use of force, violence, threats;
- Penal Code 191.5 PC gross vehicular manslaughter;
- Penal Code 187 PC murder, attempted murder, or solicitation;
- serious or violent felony crimes that carry life in prison or death.
What Are the Best Defenses for Shoplifting Cases?
This is where somebody like me comes in, having done this for 30 years. First, I will look at the circumstances and determine, after getting your story, whether or not you actually might have a defense to the case.
Secondly, if you don't have a defense to the case, we're going to figure out how we can mitigate the circumstances and how we can set things up so that your future record is protected. Further, you're protected from going to jail or prison.
Fortunately for you, even though the authorities are up in arms on these theft-related offenses, especially during the holiday season, the situation is ripe for you to be able to help yourself to be able to protect your future record because of the new District Attorney in Los Angeles county and because of all of these different propositions and reforms that have taken place over the last five years or so.
Other Strategies to Resolve Shoplifting Cases
If shoplifting cases where your guilt is not in doubt, we can use other defenses to resolve your theft case without a conviction on your record, such as the following.
Diversion program: if the judge allows you to enter into a diversion program, you will be required to follow specific terms and conditions set by the judge. These include a requirement to complete community service hours and pay full restitution to the victim.
If you complete the diversion program, your criminal charges will be dismissed without a conviction on your record.
Civil compromise: this is a popular route in shoplifting cases, and it's a legal agreement between you and the business that was victimized after you stole their merchandise.
A “civil compromise” means you will agree to repay the costs the victim suffered because of your theft or attempted theft. In return, the business owner will agree not to seek prosecution against you.
Prefiling intervention: this strategy is where your defense lawyer will negotiate with law enforcement and the prosecution in an attempt to avoid the filing of formal criminal charges against you, known as a “DA reject.”
You need someone like me who knows what it takes and how to maneuver your way through the system to get the best possible result. So, if you or a loved one was arrested, you've got a case pending, you were stealing things during the holidays, pick up the phone.
Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding, whether over the phone or in person. I stand at the ready to help you. Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County and offers a free case evaluation.