Penal Code 459.5 PC
PC 459.5 – California Shoplifting Laws
California Shoplifting Laws – Table of Contents
The Penal Code 459.5 PC makes it a crime to shoplift in California. So what is considered shoplifting in California? Shoplifting is described as entering a commercial business during business hours with the intent to steal property worth $950 or less.
Before the year 2014, if you entered a store during regular hours with the intent to commit theft, instead of shoplifting you would be charged with burglary. However, after a voter initiative, known as Proposition 47 was passed in 2014, it downgraded some petty crimes such as shoplifting.
Thus, because of the Proposition 47 enactment, if you decide to go for a five-finger discount, you will be charged with shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor offence, instead of burglary, which is a felony.
Here are a few examples that would count as shoplifting under the California Penal Code Section 459.5 PC:
- Entering a gas station store with the intent to steal a six-pack of beer
- Going into a fancy boutique planning to steal a $500 shirt
Shoplifting in the state of California is usually charged as a misdemeanor offence. This will result in penalties such as:
- Incarceration of up to six months in county jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
In some cases, a judge may offer summary probation instead of jail time.
Nevertheless, there are some situations where your shoplifting charge may be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
If you have a prior conviction for any of the following crimes. Under the Penal Code 459.5, you will be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The crimes include:
- Any serious or violent felony crime punishable by life in prison or death
- Any Sex crime requiring a person to register as a sex offender
- Gross vehicular manslaughter
- Murder, attempted murder, a solicitation to commit murder
- Any sex crime committed using force, violence, or threats
- Any sex crime committed on a minor under 14 years old
Thus being convicted for shoplifting under a felony charge will result in the following penalties:
- Jail time of up to three years in a state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Related Crimes to Shoplifting
- Burglary – California Penal Code Section 459 PC
- Possession of Burglary Tools – California Penal Code Section 466 PC
- Grand Theft – California Penal Code Section 487 PC
- Receiving Stolen Property – California Penal Code Section 496 PC
- Petty Theft – California Penal Code Section 484 PC
One important part of creating a solid defense if you are facing shoplifting charges is understanding what tactics the prosecutor will use against you.
To get you convicted under the California Penal Code 459.5 PC, the prosecutor has to prove without a reasonable doubt that:
- You entered a commercial business when it was open during regular business hours.
- You entered the commercial establishment with the intent to commit theft.
- You intended to take merchandise worth $950 or less.
The prosecutor will use testimonies from the police, witness and workers in the store, or possible camera footage to prove whether the defendant had intent to commit the crime or not.
One thing you should note about a shoplifting charge is. Whether you left the store with the merchandise is irrelevant. All the prosecutor has to prove is you had the intent to commit the crime.
Though shoplifting is not considered a serious crime, it will still appear in your record and can cause you several issues, especially when looking for employment in the future. Therefore you should be aware of some of the defenses a criminal defense attorney would use to prevent a conviction.
Lack of Intent
For you to be convicted under PC 459.5 statute, there needs to be intent of the defendant wanting to commit larceny before they enter a commercial business when it is open during regular hours.
Take a situation where a parent is shopping with a toddler, and the toddler picks up a product and places it in their parent’s bag without their knowledge. Though the parent can technical be accused of shoplifting, since there was no intent, they should not be found guilty of the crime since they had no intent to commit theft.
In some situations, you may find that the defendant came shopping with a friend and thought the friend had paid for a product. Hence they walked out of the store with it.
The defendant may be accused of shoplifting in case. Nonetheless, they can argue mistaken facts as they incorrectly thought the product had been paid for. See ‘Accidental Shoplifting‘.
All in all, if you or a loved one are facing shoplifting charges. The person to be by your side to ensure you have the highest chance of avoiding a conviction is an excellent criminal defense attorney like Seppi Esfandi. Esfandi has a great deal of experience handling criminal cases and is your best line of defense if you wish to avoid a PC 459.5 conviction. He will do everything possible to ensure you get the best case scenario from your trial case.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.
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