Understanding Petty Theft and Shoplifting

Theft is an umbrella term that applies to a wide variety of criminal offenses, including shoplifting and petty theft. Many people confuse theft and burglary, but these are actually separate criminal offenses with different statues and penalties. Burglary is more severe and only occurs when an individual enters a building or residence with the sole purpose of committing a crime.

On the other hand, theft is the "unlawful taking of someone else's property." The elements of theft are:

  • The property must not be worth no more than $950
  • The property must not be a car, firearm, or other qualifying item
  • The property must not be stolen from the owner's person

In other words, mugging does not qualify as theft because the perpetrator takes an item from the immediate possession of the victim. Shoplifting is the most common form of petty theft.

Other Forms of Petty Theft

Although it is the most common form of petty theft, shoplifting is not the only way to commit this crime. Manipulating a price tag to avoid payment, for example, is another form of theft. This is called theft by trick. Theft by fraud can also give rise to petty theft charges, depending on the situation. This might include telling a falsehood to convince someone to give you their property or money.

What are the penalties for petty theft in California?

Since petty theft is a misdemeanor crime, California law states that a first time petty theft conviction can lead to the following penalties:

  • Six Months In Jail
  • $1,000 Fine

"I was arrested for shoplifting – what should I do?"

Contact a criminal defense attorney today. Even a "minor" criminal offense can lead to serious legal penalties. If you or someone close to you was arrested for shoplifting or petty theft in the Ventura area, contact the defense lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today. To learn more and see what our team can do for your case, visit our theft crimes page.