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Home Theft Crimes Petty Theft & Shoplifting

Los Angeles Petty Theft Defense Lawyer

Petty Theft: California Penal Code 484 and 488

Under California Penal Code sections 484 and 488, the Golden State legally defines theft as the "intentional and unlawful taking of the personal property of another." The law also sets categories for different types of theft. Petty theft entails someone accused of taking:

  • Property valued at $950 or less
  • Property not taken directly from the owner (the item in question wasn't stolen from a person's body, clothes, or in a container they were holding, like in mugging or robbery cases)
  • Property that isn't an automobile, firearm, or other item that would constitute a grand theft

If you are accused or suspected of Petty Theft or Shoplifting, call us at (800) 458-1488 immediately!

Shoplifting: Penal Code Section 459.5

In 2014, California passed Proposition 47, a law that added a new misdemeanor to the state penal code. Proposition 47 required that defendants be sentenced to misdemeanors instead of felonies for "non-serious, non-violent crimes" if the defendant doesn't have prior conviction for violent crimes or sex offenses. This means that before Proposition 47, shoplifting could lead to charges for felony commercial burglary. Currently, the law makes shoplifting a misdemeanor charge. Here is how California legally views shoplifting:

  • Penal Code section 459.5 – Shoplifting: Entering a commercial establishment during regular business hours, with intent to commit larceny, where the value does not exceed $950 (or intent to commit larceny does not exceed that amount)

How are Shoplifting Charges Proven?

To secure a shoplifting conviction, a prosecutor has to prove the following:

  • The accused person committed the theft
  • The crime occurred during business hours
  • The value of the property stolen was less than $950
  • You entered the business with the INTENT to take property valued at less than $950

Shoplifting Charges and Proposition 47

Before 2014, when Proposition 47 was passed, shoplifting was a much more serious charge. Back then, if you entered a business (during business hours) with the intent to commit theft, you could have been charged with felony commercial burglary. This charge would even apply to items worth less than $950. After Proposition 47 became law, if you entered a business (during business hours) with the intent to commit theft, and the value of the item stolen is less than $950, you could be charged with misdemeanor shoplifting. If the item stolen is worth more than $950, you could be charged with grand theft.

Exceptions to Shoplifting Penal Code 459.5

You will not be eligible for misdemeanor shoplifting charges if:

  • You have previous conviction for serious or violent crimes (like rape, murder, or possession of mass destruction weapons)
  • You are a registered sex offender

Penalties for a Shoplifting Conviction in Los Angeles

Severity of penalties you may face depends on several factors, including the particular facts of your case and your criminal history. A misdemeanor Penal Code 459.5 shoplifting conviction can carry these penalties:

  • Up to 180 days in county jail
  • Up to 3 years of informal probation
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Immigration consequences (for non-citizens)

Legal Defenses Against a Shoplifting Charge

Criminal Defense Incorporated has defended many people facing shoplifting charges. Here are some of the most common defenses against these charges we can employ to get your charges dropped:

  • There was no intent: the law specifically states that you must have "entered a commercial establishment during business hours, with intent to commit larceny." Intent is an important word in this charge. It means that you meant to take the property in question. If you entered the business unaware of the property, or mistakenly walked out of the business with the property, than there is no intent.
  • You were an entrapment victim: entrapment is the act of law enforcement inducing or encouraging a person to commit a crime when the potential criminal expressed a desire not to commit the crime. Entrapment defenses are often claimed in "stings." These are situations where undercover police buy or sell drugs, services of prostitutes, or arrange to purchase items believed to be stolen. The question in entrapment cases is whether the accused person would have shoplifted an item if not pressured by an undercover officer.
  • Lack of evidence: an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney may be able to provide mitigating evidence or proof that a crime wasn't committed by showing that evidence submitted against you was insufficient or insubstantial.

Related Offenses to Penal Code Section 459.5

  • Petty Theft: Penal Code 484(a) – Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.
  • Burglary: Penal Code Section 459 – Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.
  • Grand Theft: Penal Code Section 487 – Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred fifty dollars ($950); the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more in any 12 consecutive month period; when the property is taken from the person of another; when the property taken is any of the following: an automobile or a firearm.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Theft Defense Attorney

Criminal Defense Incorporated has years of experience building strong defenses cases for our Southern California clients. Let our Los Angeles theft defense lawyers help you. Call us today at (800) 458-1488.


If you've been accused of a crime, but NOT formally charged yet, call us immediately.


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