If you’ve been arrested and charged with petty theft or shoplifting, you need to act quickly in order to protect your rights and your reputation. This type of charge can result in serious penalties. If you’re convicted, you’ll have a criminal record for the remainder of your life. Here’s how you can defend yourself against charges of petty theft.
Petty Theft in California Defined
The primary definition of petty theft in California is simple: the taking of property that belongs to someone else that is valued at less than $950. However, there are some unique cases that may also lead to a charge of petty theft, such as embezzlement of less than $950 or “theft by trick,” like switching the price tags on a piece of merchandise so it will ring up at a lower price. If the theft occurs in an establishment, such as a department store, the charge is considered shoplifting.
Petty Theft & Shoplifting Penalties
Although petty theft and shoplifting are some of the most common charges in California and are classified as misdemeanors, they don’t come without significant consequences. First-time petty theft or shoplifting charges can result in up to six months in a county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, or both. Second and third offenses tend to carry more serious penalties, including higher fines and more jail time, and is up to the discretion of the judge in your case.
Potential Defenses for Shoplifting & Petty Theft
There are several legal defenses that can be used in a shoplifting or petty theft case, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. You may be able to argue that the property was owned by you to begin with, that you didn’t intend to steal the item(s) in question, or that you were falsely accused of the theft. A lawyer can help you determine the best defense given the particular facts of your case.
Attorney Donald J. Matson is an experienced criminal defense lawyer with experience in defending criminal charges of all kinds, including petty theft and shoplifting. Don’t wait to get legal help because petty theft is a misdemeanor — you can still be severely punished in ways that will affect you and your family for the rest of your lives. Call now for a consultation to discuss your legal needs at (626) 792-1900 or (626) 773-6965. The time to take action to protect your rights is now.