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San Diego Shoplifting Attorneys


Quality Defense from a Former Police Officer

Shoplifting is a form of theft that involves stealing goods from a store. Unless the value of goods taken exceeds $950, shoplifting is charged as petty theft and is usually charged as a misdemeanor. This can carry time in jail and excessive fines. Shoplifting charges are usually backed by strong physical evidence, such as video surveillance, recovered property, and even witness testimony. For this reason, it is all the more important for you to work with a capable San Diego shoplifting attorney who can protect your rights and ensure you are treated fairly throughout the legal process.

While you may assume shoplifting is a minor crime, these charges can quickly lead to a serious conviction if you do not act fast. To begin building your case today, contact jD LAW today! Our legal team has extensive experience defending clients throughout San Diego County and can provide thorough guidance during your trial. If you or your loved one has been charged with shoplifting, call us at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

James N. Dicks is a San Diego criminal lawyer experienced in defending theft crime charges; he has the resources needed to be effective. As a former police officer and a certified criminal law specialist, Attorney James N. Dicks has a solid understanding of California state laws and penalties as they apply to shoplifting. This knowledge and experience is invaluable in helping clients attain alternative sentencing, lessened charges, or a winning verdict.

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Shoplifting Laws in California

Shoplifting is defined under California Penal Code 495.5 as entering a business establishment, store, or shop during regular business hours with the intent to take property marked for sale without paying for them. This definition distances the charges from burglary, which is defined as stealing property from a business or dwelling outside of regular business hours. This distinction is key, as burglary is a much more serious crime in California that can lead to significant charges. When an alleged shoplifting crime took place can be key to protecting you from lengthy jail time and hefty fines.

In addition, what property was allegedly stolen is also important to your case. Many businesses offer free samples that customers are allowed to take without purchasing anything else. However, new managers and staff may not be aware of this and may call the police if you attempted to leave the store with an item they assumed was for sale. Misunderstandings like these can lead to damaging sentencings if you do not express your legal right to a lawyer. If the property was valued at more than $950, then you could face grand theft charges, which are a felony in California.

In order to secure a shoplifting conviction, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant entered an establishment with the intent of stealing property from the business. Because this is an intent crime, the prosecution only needs to prove that you intended to commit theft, or larceny, from the business. It does not matter whether or not you were successful or had accidentally placed an item in your purse, pockets, backpack, or even your child’s stroller.

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The Harsh Consequences of Shoplifting

While the penalties you face in your case will depend on several factors, you can expect to be up against serious consequences. Even though you may think your offense is minor, the criminal court system in San Diego doesn't take shoplifting charges lightly.

That is why the following penalties may be enforced:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • $1,000 in fines
  • Restitution to the victim
  • 3 years of probation

In cases that involve a large amount of shoplifted property, the defendant may face between one and three years behind bars. Further, you could be required to pay back the value of the property in excess to the property owner. Don't let your record be ruined over a shoplifting incident! Instead, come to jD LAW for qualified counsel and representation.

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Parental Liability in Shoplifting Cases

In some cases, a parent could be found liable for his or her child’s actions when it pertains to shoplifting. California Penal Code 490.5 states that when a child who is a minor (under the age of 21) shoplifts from a store or library, the parent can be held liable in addition to the child. That liability, however, is limited to $500. But that liability can be added to other forms of liability, making the penalties for the parent or guardian more severe.

California Penal Code 272 states that if a parent or guardian greatly contributes to the delinquency of a minor by grossly failing to provide proper supervision, reasonable care, protection, or control over the child, that parent or guardian can be found liable and have penalties imposed for that negligence. These penalties, however, will likely only be handed down in cases when the parent’s failure was severe, or when a parent should have known that the child was at risk for delinquency.

For example, if a teenager was shopping with her mother and snuck a shirt into her bag while her mother’s back was turned, the mother may be found liable for the smaller charge and have to pay the minimal fee of $500. But if the mother knew that her daughter had a history of shoplifting and allowed her to go into an electronic store unattended, where she then proceeded to steal several types of goods, the mother’s liability would be greater.

Parents who reasonably tried to control their child and were not successful will likely not be found liable for their child’s behavior.

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Charges Related to Shoplifting

Technically speaking, shoplifting can fall under the category of petty theft or grand theft. Petty theft refers to any theft crime that involves the stealing of property worth $950 or less, while grand theft involves property worth more than $950. The value of the property involved in your alleged offense may be key to reducing your sentencing and ensuring you are not charged with a felony, as is the case with a grand theft conviction.

As mentioned earlier, when the crime is committed can play a factor in how the prosecution charges you. California law outlines that a theft must have occurred during regular business hours or when the business was open. This means that if you entered the property outside of business hours and then attempted to steal property, you can be charged with burglary, which often comes with more severe punishments.

In addition, if you receive multiple charges of shoplifting, you may be found guilty of committing a shoplifting spree. The prosecution often takes these charges much more seriously, especially if you are linked to a local gang or criminal organization. While there is no specific charge for shoplifting sprees, the prosecution may push for grand theft charges based on the value of the alleged stolen goods.

Generally, shoplifting involves concealing property in a bag, pocket, or on the defendant’s body, such as by wearing department store clothes under a jacket or hoodie. However, if a security guard or staff member attempts to stop you and you injure them, you may face Estes robbery charges.

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Estes Robbery

Shoplifting, which is usually charged as a misdemeanor, can turn into an Estes robbery under certain circumstances. This crime is named after Curtis Estes who, in 1983, brandishes a knife towards a Sears security guard after he was caught shoplifting and threatened to kill the guard.

An Estes robbery in California occurs when a person has shoplifted from a store and, when confronted by a security guard or store employee, used force to hurt or push past the store employee to avoid arrest or further action. An Estes robbery is considered the same as other types of robberies and can be prosecuted as a felony in California.

If a person is found guilty of an Estes robbery in the first degree, the penalties can be as high as six years in prison. A lesser conviction of an Estes robbery in the second degree can carry a penalty of up to two, three, or five years in prison.

However, it is important to note that in cases where the security guard or store employee initiated the use of force, a person may not be charged with an Estes robbery if he was simply trying to defend himself or avoid being hurt.

We highly advise that if you are approached by a store employee and asked if you have stolen an item to comply with the store employees in order to avoid more serious charges. In many cases, simply cooperating with the store and promising not to visit again may be enough to get the entire case dropped.

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Defending Shoplifting Charges in San Diego, California

While some shoplifting cases can be cleared out by speaking to the business owner or staff, many go to trial. In these instances, you will want to work with an experienced attorney to build a defense case. It is possible to have your charges dropped altogether if there is insufficient evidence or have them reduced down to an infraction, which will not appear on your criminal record.

When you work with jD LAW, our lead attorney will utilize all of his experience, knowledge, and skill to defend your rights. This may involve speaking to the prosecution before the charges are filed to enter into a plea bargain. However, if your case does go to trial, he can work to deconstruct each of the district attorney’s arguments by demonstrating that:

  • There was no intent to steal from the store, and you did not have any stolen property on you
  • The property was on you, but you accidently left the store with it and did not intend to steal it
  • The staff were confused, and it was a case of mistaken identity
  • The police conducted misconduct when searching you
  • The value of the property does not constitute grand theft, meaning your charges may be lessened

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Contact an Attorney Today

Shoplifting charges can follow you for years to come, impacting your ability to work in retail, in addition to the possibility of facing jail time, hefty fines, and restitution. But everyone deserves a fair defense under the law, which is why you should not hesitate to call jD LAW if you or someone you loved has been charged with shoplifting. By having a skilled San Diego criminal attorney at your side, you have the chance to avoid a conviction. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate to have the charges lessened to an infraction or advocate for a diversion program if your child was charged with shoplifting. Our legal team is thorough and detailed oriented and can utilize all of our resources to investigate your case and build a defense.

Don't take a chance with your future and your reputation. Contact jD LAW at (760) 630-2000 today!

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