Shoplifting in California decriminalized? – Here’s what the law says

Shoplifting in California

Shoplifting in California has been the subject of confusion following the coming into of Proposition 47, the California shoplifting law that introduced a couple of changes.

The main point of confusion has been whether the law out-rightly decriminalizes shoplifting or not. Many have said that, in de-facto, the law okays shoplifting and petty theft in California. In this article, we discuss what the law says about Shoplifting in California. Read on to know more.

What is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting refers to the taking of items in a shop, supermarket or any designated commercial establishment, and exiting the place without paying. Shoplifters usually conceal the items in the their clothing, hand bags or even put on the items if they’re wearable, such as watches, necklaces, shoes etc.

Shoplifting may also be classified as petty theft, petit larceny or Grand theft depending on the theft laws prevailing in your state or country. The legal definition and punishment for shoplifting is usually guided by the monetary value of the items stolen.

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Shoplifting in California, according to the California $950 theft law, is defined as the theft of items from a commercial establishment with the value of the items not exceeding Nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950).

New York Shoplifting laws classifies shoplifting as petit larceny if the value of the shoplifted items does not exceed One thousand dollars ($1000).

Shoplifting in California

California shoplifting falls under the legal definition in Penal Code section 459.5 of California theft law, which stipulates that, a person is guilty of shoplifting if they:

  1. Steal items from a commercial establishment
  2. That the value of the items does not exceed $950.

Shoplifting in California and other petty theft under this legal definition used to be a wobbler Crime. This means prosecutors could choose to either prosecute it as a misdemeanor or a felony. This is where the new California theft law comes in.

The law known as proposition 47 introduced Penal Code section 459.5, making shoplifting in California and petty theft, a misdemeanor crime. The law also set the value of stolen items which makes the crime a misdemeanor at $950. Theft of items exceeding this value therefore becomes a felony.

What the new introduction did was to reduce the penalties for shoplifting and petty theft, while also removing the discretionary powers given to prosecutors to choose between prosecuting petty theft and shoplifting as a misdemeanor or felony.

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Is shoplifting decriminalized in California?

The straight up answer is NO. Shoplifting in California is still a criminal offense despite the new changes to the law. While a misdemeanor is a minor offense carrying lessor punishment compared to a felony, you won’t go scot-free for shoplifting.

Again, don’t forget that the value of the stolen items determine whether you get to face a misdemeanor or a more serious felony charges for Shoplifting in California.

Punishment for Shoplifting in California

People convicted of shoplifting in California and petty theft, could face the following punishment:

1. Restitution and fines

The least penalty you can face is to be made to return what you took or pay back in monetary value. You could also face a fine of up to $1000

2. Probation

This could come in the form of community sentences, suspended sentences. Breaking the probation rules within the probation period will see the offender face harsher sentences.

3. Jail time

Misdemeanors in California carries a maximum jail time of up to 6 months in jail if convicted. Offenders can also face both jail time and fines.

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It’s not a crime to steal in California?

As has been intimated in this article, it is a crime to steal in California, despite the introduction of new laws that make stealing up to $950 worth of goods a misdemeanor.

Some people have opined that, since misdemeanor is a lesser charge which sometimes, the punishment may not involve jail time, the police and prosecutors may not be interested in pursing shoplifters whose theft falls within the scope. This, they claim, amounts to an open invitation for people to steal.

But, law enforcement is not under any obligation to let stealing in California slide. If apprehended, offenders can be prosecuted and face penalties according to the law.

In Conclusion

Shoplifting in California is when someone takes items from a shop and leaves without paying. Shoplifters may face a misdemeanor charge if arrested since the introduction of the New California shoplifting and petty theft law, also known as Proposition 47. The notion that it is not a crime to steal in California is a misconception.


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