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  • Multiple defendants each facing 7 years charged with smuggling prescription drugs into California from Mexico our client was the only defendant who received NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 5 years for possession of deadly weapon we negotiated a plea for NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 3 life terms for multiple felony counts of Child Molestation and Sodomy with child we proved the charges were fabricated by victims mother DISMISSAL of all charges at preliminary hearing!

  • Strike case: Client charged with possession of methamphetamine facing 25 years we filed a Romero Motion which was granted case REDUCED TO MISDEMEANOR!

  • Client's estranged girlfriend alleged Client broke into her room and choked her facing 14 years in State Prison we won at trial JURY ACQUITTAL.

  • Police allegedly discovered 3 bags of marijuana in client's glove box faced 6 years we filed a 1538.5 motion to suppress resulting in DISMISSAL of all charges!

  • Client allegedly sold rock cocaine to undercover officer faced 10 years following our argument client received NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 15 years for Armed Robbery we proved misidentification Judge DISMISSED the case!

Petty Theft and Shoplifting Defense Attorneys

Defending against Shoplifting and Theft Charges in Los Angeles and throughout California

Many people face charges of petty theft or shoplifting in the Los Angeles area on a regular basis. Some defendants believe that stealing a relatively small item is no big deal since no one gets physically hurt. In addition, many people associate shoplifting with teenage pranks, which they do not consider to be a serious matter. However, both of these are criminal offenses under the California Penal Code. Both can result in criminal convictions on your record, fines, probation, or even time in jail.

Having the right California theft defense attorney handling your case is imperative. The legal team at The Law Offices of David S. Chesley knows how to fight against petty theft and shoplifting charges. We understand the consequences of a conviction can last long after you complete your sentence, so we aim to avoid a conviction or reduce your charges whenever possible. If you have been arrested and accused of shoplifting or stealing, call our skilled Los Angeles petty theft defense attorneys right away.

“Petty” Theft in California

California’s basic theft statute is Penal Code 484, which makes it unlawful to take money or property from another person without authority. There are many different forms of theft, including:

  • Theft by larceny, which involves physically taking something that is not yours. An example would be seeing someone’s purse on a chair and taking it.
  • Theft by trick, which involves tricking someone to gain possession of something. For example, you borrow a lawn mower from a neighbor with the promise to return it, though you intend to keep it.
  • Theft by false pretenses, which involves using deceit or fraud to obtain money or property. This can apply to many situations including identity theft, credit card fraud, and similar theft crimes.
  • Theft by embezzlement, which involves taking something that you had permission to possess temporarily, but not permanently. This can range from a bank teller keeping $20 for themselves from the register to investment schemes misappropriating millions of dollars from clients.

Just as theft crimes vary significantly, so does the type and value of property stolen. Under Penal Code 484, theft of property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor offense, often referred to as “petty” theft. This is in contrast to “grand” theft, which involves taking property over $950 or the theft of cars or firearms.

While it may be commonly called “petty,” these theft crimes should not be treated that way. Prosecutors take these offenses very seriously, and so should you. The state is represented by a lawyer, so you should also have quality representation in any theft-related case.

California Shoplifting Laws

Normally, entering a building or establishment with the intent to commit a crime would be considered burglary. However, in 2014, California passed a separate law - Penal Code 495.5 - addressing situations in which someone enters a commercial establishment during business hours with the intent to commit petty theft (under $950). Now, the charge of “shoplifting” should apply to those situations.

Shoplifting is most commonly associated with going into a store and hiding something in your pocket or purse in order to take it without paying for it. However, the crime of shoplifting can apply to additional scenarios, including the following:

  • Switching price tags to pay less than the value of the item
  • Trying to return items for a refund that you did not purchase
  • A cashier purposely charging less than they should or not charging for certain items
  • Entering a bank or another commercial establishment to try to cash a forged check

Any of these can result in shoplifting charges if the value of the property is less than $950. If it is more than $950, you may face felony burglary and grand theft charges.

While many young people may shoplift on a dare or due to a lapse in judgment, they can still face criminal charges and all of the potential consequences. In addition, some people may shoplift because they cannot afford to buy enough food to feed their family, and then end up in criminal court as a result. The law takes shoplifting very seriously in California, and you should be aware that you face steep penalties with these charges. Contact our Los Angeles shoplifting defense lawyers as soon as possible if you get accused of shoplifting.

Related Offenses

The following are some criminal offenses that are often involved in petty theft or shoplifting cases:

  • Petty Theft with a Prior (Penal Code 666) - The penalties can be enhanced significantly for people charged with petty theft who already have the following on their criminal record: a theft-related conviction for which they served a period of imprisonment, AND a serious or violent felony conviction or any conviction requiring them to register as a sex offender.
  • Receiving Stolen Property (Penal Code 496) - It is not only against the law to steal something, but also to purchase, receive, conceal, or sell property someone knows was stolen. Someone can be charged with this offense or petty theft, but not both.
  • Burglary (Penal Code 459) - As mentioned, if someone steals something worth more than $950 from a commercial establishment, the offense is no longer shoplifting but can be charged as burglary, which is a felony. It is important to have an attorney who can seek to have any burglary charges reduced to shoplifting whenever possible.

Possible Penalties for Petty Theft or Shoplifting

Both petty theft and shoplifting are misdemeanor offenses in California. A conviction for either can mean the following penalties, or a combination thereof:

  • Summary probation (unsupervised probation)
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to six months in county jail

In addition to penalties set out by the criminal court, Penal Code 496(c) also provides possible civil penalties for those convicted of petty theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, and related offenses. The law states that any party that suffers losses due to one of these theft crimes can seek the following in a civil action:

  • Three times the amount of actual damages
  • Court costs
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees

This means that if someone steals a smartphone worth $700, the store owner could then seek up to $2,100 in damages, plus other costs. A criminal conviction can only help a plaintiff prove their case.

Fortunately, there are many ways our California petty theft attorneys can defend against theft crimes, including shoplifting. Some common defenses include:

  • Lack of intent to commit the theft
  • False accusations and showing that you were factually innocent
  • The owner consented to you taking the property
  • The property, in fact, belonged to you

In addition to presenting legal defenses, we can also negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a favorable plea bargain. A plea bargain can often obtain reduced charges, significantly reduced penalties, as well as no conviction on your record.

Do Not Wait to Consult with Our Experienced Los Angeles Petty Theft Defense Attorneys

At The Law Offices of David S. Chesley, our highly skilled California theft and shoplifting lawyers are ready to help you. After an arrest, it is important to contact our office as soon as you can, so we can begin protecting your rights. Never take any type of criminal charge lightly. Instead, call 800-755-5174 or contact us online to discuss the many ways we can help you throughout your criminal case.

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