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Is shoplifting a serious offense?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Shoplifting, a seemingly minor offense, can have serious repercussions in California.

From hefty fines to potential jail time, the consequences of shoplifting are no small matter.

Criminal charges and penalties

Shoplifting can result in criminal charges, and the penalties vary depending on the value of the stolen items. If the value is under $950, it is typically a petty theft, a misdemeanor. Conviction of petty theft may lead to penalties such as fines of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months.

When the stolen merchandise exceeds $950 in value or if the accused has a previous theft-related conviction, the charge may escalate to grand theft, which is a felony. Felony convictions carry more severe consequences, including substantial fines and the potential for imprisonment in state prison.

Civil penalties

Aside from criminal penalties, those accused of shoplifting may face civil penalties. Retailers can pursue civil claims against shoplifters, seeking restitution for the stolen merchandise and additional damages, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

Probation and restitution orders

In many shoplifting cases, the court may impose probation as part of the sentence. Probation often includes requirements like attending theft prevention classes, community service or regular check-ins with a probation officer. Additionally, the court may order the accused to pay restitution to the store to compensate for the stolen items.

Although stores only catch shoplifters approximately 2% of the time, a shoplifting conviction can have long-lasting consequences. A criminal record can hinder future job prospects, as many employers conduct background checks.


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