Shoplifting

California Penal Code Section 459.5 – Shoplifting

The “crime” of shoplifting is covered under California Penal Code Section 459.5, which describes it as entering an open commercial business during regular hours with the specific intent of committing a theft crime worth $950 or less, which is petty theft. In other words, you commit a shoplifting offense when you enter an open business with intent to steal merchandise. If you enter the same commercial business when it’s not open with intent to commit larceny, it’s considered “burglary” under California Penal Code Section 459. It should be noted that before Proposition 47 was passed in 2014, you could have been charged with burglary, but now you have to be charged with misdemeanor PC 459.5 shoplifting. A common example of a shoplifting crime in Los Angeles County includes a situation where someone enters a department store in a mall with the intent to steal items. Another example is when someone enters a convenience store with intent to steal a case of beer. It’s important to note here the key word of “intent” to shoplift when you entered an open business. What about situations when you entered an open business without intent, but decided to steal something once inside? In this situation, you are not guilty of Penal Code 459.5 shoplifting, but could be charged with petty theft. If you have been arrested or cited by police for shoplifting, you will typically receive a civil demand letter informing that you must pay restitution or you will be sued. Contact the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group to review your case and legal options moving forward. Now that we have covered a general overview of PC 459.5 shoplifting above, let’s examine the legal definition, penalties, and defenses below.

Legal Definition of Penal Code 459.5 Shoplifting

California Penal Code Section 459.5 legally defines a shoplifting offense as follows:

Shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while it’s open during regular business hours and the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken is $950 or less. Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary. Shoplifting will be punished as a misdemeanor crime unless defendant has one or more prior convictions.

Based on this legal definition above, the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, certain “elements of the crime” in order to convict you of PC 459.5 shoplifting. These elements include the following:

  • You entered an open commercial establishment
  • During regular business hours
  • With the specific intent to steal property valued at $950 or less

As you can see, it’s important to make note the legal definition specifically states entering a store during normal business hours with intent to steal at the moment you entered. How can a prosecutor prove what you were thinking when you entered beyond a reasonable doubt? This means it must be proven you harbored the intent to commit a theft of $950 or less prior to entry. Consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm for more information.

Legal Penalties for Penal Code 459.5 Shoplifting

If you have been convicted of PC 459.5 shoplifting, it’s typically a misdemeanor offense that carries up to 6 months in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000. However, there are situations where you could face more severe felony penalties including up to 3 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Felony penalties would apply if you have a prior conviction for any of the following crimes:

  • Sex crime requiring sex offender registration or sexually violent offense
  • Sex crime on a child under 14 years old
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter
  • Murder, attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder
  • Any serious or violent felony crime punishable by life in prison or death

Related Offense to Penal Code 459.5 Shoplifting

California Penal Code Section 484 – Petty Theft
California Penal Code Section 487 – Grand Theft
California Penal Code Section 459 – Burglary
California Penal Code Section 602 – Trespassing

Legal Defenses for Penal Code 459.5 Shoplifting

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm can use a variety of legal strategies on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome on your case.  We first need to review the details of you case, but the most common defenses include the following:

Lack of Intent – As we have discussed above, intent is the critical key element of the crime in a shoplifting charge. If you didn’t have intent to steal prior to entering the store, you are not guilty of PC 459.5 shoplifting. This means if you decided to shoplift after entering the business, it’s not a violation of this statute. In most cases, the prosecutor will attempt to establish intent based on your own statements after you were detained or arrested. It may be possible for our lawyers to prove you didn’t have intent prior to entering.

False Accusation – There have been shoplifting cases where the defendant was falsely accused based on mistaken identification. Perhaps the store was busy with many customers and you were wearing similar clothing and security personnel made a mistake. Other false accusation occurs from people who were motivated by anger or revenge.

Misconduct by Police – In some cases, our lawyers may be able to show police violated your Fourth Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution against unreasonable searches or used coercion to make you confess. If we have reason to believe there was police misconduct, we could file a Pitchess motion to examine the officer’s past for similar complaints.

Civil Compromise – It may be possible in misdemeanor shoplifting cases to make an agreement to repay the business if they agree not to pursue prosecution. Consult with our law firm for more details on a civil compromise agreement.

Contact our Criminal Defense Law Firm for Help

If you or a member of your family have been accused of shoplifting in violation of under California Penal Code Section 459.5, call our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to review the details of your case and legal options. A conviction can have life-changing consequences. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact our law office at 323-461-2000.