5 California Shoplifting FAQs

Shoplifting and retail theft account for a significant percentage of property crime in California, and the percentage has steadily increased since the passage of Prop. 47 in 2014. As a result, our West Los Angeles based criminal defense firm has taken on significantly more shoplifting cases than in years past. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the five most frequently asked questions posed to us by prospective clients faced with shoplifting charges in Los Angeles. If you have been recently cited or arrested for shoplifting, you will likely have similar questions and may find the following explanations beneficial:    

What kind of penalties am I facing on a 1st offense Shoplifting charge?

A first offense conviction for shoplifting carries up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. However, these are not mandatory punishments and only represent the maximum sentencing exposure you face if charged with shoplifting under California Penal Code 459.5. The range of punishment can vary depending on the facts of your case and your prior criminal history. Although jail time is rarely imposed on first offense shoplifting convictions, if you have a prior criminal record for non-theft related offenses or are currently on probation for a previous criminal conviction, a jail sentence could result if you were convicted of shoplifting even as a first offense. A typical 1st offense penalty usually involves a sentence of summary probation between 1 to 3 years, fines & penalty assessments, and/or community service or community labor.    

Should I still hire a lawyer even though I confessed and the store has me on video stealing?

You should absolutely retain an experienced shoplifting attorney to represent you even though there may be overwhelming evidence proving your guilt. There is a common misconception amongst those charged with shoplifting and theft crimes that there is no point in trying to defend against a shoplifting charge because they are factually guilty or the evidence of their guilt would most certainly result in a guilty verdict at trial. However, the reality is most of our clients who find themselves charged with shoplifting and petty theft offenses are factually guilty. However, the majority of our clients are able to avoid shoplifting or theft related convictions through our plea negotiations with prosecutors. In other words, just because you may be factually guilty does not make a conviction a certainty.

Can a Shoplifting charge be dismissed or reduced?

Shoplifting charges can be dismissed or reduced to lesser, non-theft offenses through a number of plea bargains a defense attorney can negotiate. If your shoplifting case is your first offense and you have no prior criminal history, your charges can be dismissed by way of deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) or diversion. The terms of punishment can differ from court to court, and county to county. However, the end result would be the same if you successfully comply with all terms set forth by the court. Your charges would be dismissed leaving your record clean. A plea to a reduced charge could also be negotiated by your defense lawyer to help you avoid a shoplifting conviction on your record. Pleas to lesser offenses such as disturbing the peace and trespassing are commonly utilized by experienced shoplifting defense lawyers to help their clients avoid theft convictions, as well as the collateral consequences that come with having a theft related conviction on one’s record.

Can a Shoplifting conviction be expunged?

If you are convicted of shoplifting, you can petition the court for expungement relief once you qualify. Eligibility would begin upon either your successful completion of probation or once your probation is terminated. Alternatively, if you elect to avoid probation by voluntarily accepting jail time as means to securing a terminal sentence, you would not be eligible for an expungement until a year from your date of conviction.

Will I lose my professional license if I’m convicted of Shoplifting?

This question and the variance, “How will a shoplifting conviction affect my future job prospects?” is the most challenging to answer as there is no definitive or certain answer. For those either seeking professional licensing or already in possession of profession licensing, a shoplifting conviction poses serious consequences as the offense qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude. Furthermore, professional licensing background applications and renewal forms require disclosure of all criminal case details such as whether you have been previously arrested and what your arrest was for, to whether you entered a plea of guilty or no contest even if you were not convicted. Therefore, the outcome of your case will not be the only factor considered. Although a conviction can result in a suspension or revocation of your professional license, it is not an automatic consequence nor foregone conclusion. Professional licensing organizations render their decisions on a case by case basis and allow for administrative hearings to be requested to allow a respondent to plead his or her case for leniency. Factors in mitigation will be weighed and considered before a final decision is made. Therefore, it would be beneficial to consult with an attorney with experience defending licensed professionals in criminal matters to ensure your case is properly prepared for both the criminal case and the administrative action that will likely follow.

Southern California Shoplifting Defense Since 1987

Most of our clients charged with shoplifting are first offenders with no prior history or experience with the criminal justice system. Therefore, we understand how stressful and anxious these times are. If you have been cited for shoplifting in Los Angeles or anywhere in Southern California, call us today at (866) 430-8383 for a free consultation. A momentary lapse in judgment does not have to ruin your life and career. Call Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP today to learn how we can help.

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