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How shoplifting is punished in California

When it comes to shopping, no one state has more high-end shopping spots than California. It's these types of establishments that makes the state a mecca for shoplifters. In 2014, Proposition 47 was passed in California. It gave way to reduced sentences for once-serious drug offenses, but also shoplifting as well.

In the state of California, the crime of shoplifting falls into one of two different categories, either petty or grand theft. Whether an individual gets charged with one or the other depends on what police deem the assessed value of the items stolen to be.

An individual is charged with petty theft, in violation of California Penal Code Section 488, when the value of the items he or she is alleged to have stolen amounts to $950 or less. In contrast, any amount over that threshold is considered to be grand theft, a violation of California Penal Code Section 487.

The assessment of the value of items stolen is largely based on fair market value of those items. This amount would traditionally coincide with the retail sticker price for it.

In California, petty theft is sentenced as a misdemeanor. It can be punished with as much as six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. However, if the item stolen is deemed to have a value of $50 or less, then the defendant may only be subject to a $250 fine and no jail time.

As for grand theft, it is also considered to be a misdemeanor, provided the crime did not involve the theft of a firearm. If it did, the offense becomes a felony charge. In the case of the less serious of the two charges, it carries with it a potential one-year jail sentence. In a firearms theft case, the defendant could be sentenced to as much as three years in prison.

There are a number of defenses that a Van Nuys shoplifting attorney may be able to help you apply in litigating your case. Some of those defenses include claiming that you lacked criminal intent, stole out of necessity or that you were under duress. An experienced theft attorney can advise you with the one to pursue in your particular case.

Source: FindLaw, "California's shoplifting laws," accessed June 30, 2017

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