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Defending the Legal Rights of Individuals Who Have Been Accused of Petty Theft – Shoplifting 

Shoplifting, also known as petty theft, is a common offense in California courts. This offense is defined by California Penal Code Sections 484 and 488 as the theft of goods valued at $950 or less. If the value of the stolen goods exceeds $950, it can be charged as grand theft under Penal Code Section 487.

Petty theft is a serious crime in California, even though it is the lowest level of theft offense. Conviction for petty theft can result in significant penalties, including the possibility of jail time. Petty theft is frequently prosecuted in the Los Angeles area.

In California, one option for resolving a criminal case is through a diversion program called deferred entry of judgment (DEJ). This program allows individuals to have their charges dismissed and avoid a conviction. To be eligible for DEJ, the defendant must plead guilty or no contest to the charges and agree to complete certain requirements, such as community service or counseling. If the requirements are successfully completed, the charges will be dismissed and the defendant will not have a conviction on their record. It is important to note that DEJ is only available for certain offenses and is at the discretion of the prosecutor and the court. If you are facing criminal charges in California and want to explore your options, including the possibility of a diversion program, it is advisable to speak with a lawyer.

There are various types of conduct that may be considered petty theft under California law. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Altering price tags to pay less for an item.
  • Intentionally taking possession of someone else’s property without the intention of returning it.
  • Removing items from your place of work for personal use without permission.
  • It is important to note that these are just a few examples of conduct that may be considered petty theft.


A petty theft conviction can result in serious legal consequences, including the following:

  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Six months in jail
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Restitution

A theft conviction can have long-lasting consequences beyond any court-imposed penalties. It can impact your ability to secure employment or housing, as many employers and landlords may be hesitant to hire or rent to someone with a criminal record involving theft. This is because a theft conviction can raise concerns about trustworthiness and honesty. A criminal record is permanent, meaning that the effects of a theft conviction could potentially impact you for years to come. It is important to carefully consider the potential consequences of a criminal conviction and to seek legal advice if you are facing charges.

Penalties of Petty Theft

In California, petty theft is generally charged as a misdemeanor and is punishable by:

  • a maximum of three years of probation, up to six months in jail, and
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

Grand theft, on the other hand, is a “wobbler” offense, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor at the prosecutor’s discretion. Factors that may influence the prosecutor’s decision include the value of the stolen goods and the defendant’s criminal history. If an individual has a prior conviction for petty theft, they may be charged with petty theft with a prior, which is also a wobbler offense under California Penal Code Section 666. This charge carries stiffer penalties, including the possibility of up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor charge and potentially 16 months in prison if the charge is filed as a felony. If you are facing charges for petty theft or grand theft, it is important to seek legal advice to understand your options and defend your rights.


If you have been accused of petty theft, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of your options. It is common for police or store security personnel to aggressively question individuals in this situation, and it may seem like pleading guilty is the only choice. However, it is important to remember that you have the right to legal representation and to defend yourself against the charges. An attorney can provide you with guidance and help you understand your options, including the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain or fighting the charges in court. If you have not yet retained an attorney, it is advisable to do so as soon as possible to protect your rights.

If you have been accused of petty theft, it is important to keep in mind that the police, store security personnel, and others involved in the case are not necessarily on your side. It is also important to understand that these individuals may not have legal training and may not fully understand how the legal system works. In California, the prosecution is required to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. This means that the prosecution must present sufficient evidence to convince a judge or jury that it is more likely than not that you committed the crime. An attorney can help you understand your rights and defend yourself against the charges. If you have not yet retained an attorney, it is advisable to do so as soon as possible.

If you are facing petty theft charges in Los Angeles, there are several potential defenses that may be available to you. These include:

  • It may be possible to argue that your constitutional rights were violated during the investigation. If this is the case, any evidence that was gathered as a result of the violation may be deemed inadmissible in court. This can often lead to the dismissal of the case entirely. Some examples of constitutional rights that may be relevant in a petty theft case include:

        • The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures
        • The right to be free from self-incrimination
        • The right to counsel
    • Providing evidence that you did not steal the item of which you are accused.
    • Presenting evidence to prove that you owned the property of which you have been accused of stealing. In many circumstances, a person will attempt to reclaim property that he or she has previously loaned out.

    The potential defenses available to you in a petty theft case depend on a number of factors, including the specific circumstances of your case and the laws of the state of California. Criminal defense is a complex area of law, and it can be difficult for those without legal training to understand when a defense may apply in their case. This is why it is important to have your case reviewed by an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your options and develop a defense strategy based on the specific facts of your case. If you are facing petty theft charges, it is advisable to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

    At Tabibnia Law Firm, our attorneys are board-certified criminal defense specialists who are dedicated to helping clients defend themselves against petty theft charges. When you retain our firm, we will thoroughly review your case to determine whether any legal defenses are available. This may involve examining evidence such as police reports, surveillance tapes, eyewitness accounts, and loss prevention reports. If it is not possible to mount a defense, our attorneys may still be able to negotiate a favorable recommendation from the prosecutor that could significantly reduce the penalties you are facing or even help you avoid a conviction. If you are facing petty theft charges, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights and explore your options.


    It is important for people with immigration concerns to be aware that petty theft is considered a “crime of moral turpitude” under immigration law. This means that a conviction for petty theft could have serious consequences for an individual’s immigration status, including the possibility of deportation or denial of naturalization or citizenship. If you are facing petty theft charges and have immigration concerns, it is essential to seek legal advice as soon as possible to understand the potential impacts on your immigration status and to explore your options. An attorney with expertise in immigration law can help you understand the potential consequences of a petty theft conviction and advise you on how to protect your rights.

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