Shows the different ways to beata sholifting charge

It's not just being caught red handed.

Petty Theft Defense Attorney - Fighting Your Theft and Larceny Charges

Hire a Skilled Lawyer in Orange County

What is an example of petty theft?
An example of a petty theft will involve making a quick decision at the mall to take items from a store without paying. Store security or loss prevention would be patroling the stores and will follow the person as they take a valuable item and remove price tags. They either patrol them as undercover shoppers. Other times they patrol the stores via closed circuit cameras. Once a person is spotted taking stuff, lost prevention will head them off at the exit and stop them.

A civil demand letter is served along with a court appearance date . The police will be called in and a report will be taken. The police officer will assign you to a courthouse with a citation to appear and the store will sendyou a civil demand letter. You will sign this promise to appear with a date to appear in court. This is where the misdemeanor offense case starts.

Most pople who get caught are classified as first time offender because they have only been caught once despite them doing it before. .

The good news is that this does not have to result in heavy a penalty and fines. A crafty theft lawyer can avoid the heavy penalties assocaited with common theft crimes and the negative impact that comes with it. In addition if things are handled correctly there does not even have to a petty theft conviction on your record.

As Seen On

Recent Case Results -  Petty Theft and Shoplifting Attorney

Dismiss your Case

My name's Hieu Vu I'm a criminal defense attorney here and Southern California. I've handled hundreds of cases at South coast Plaza. Sephora, Fry's familiar with the shoplifting charges. I've seen every kind of variation there is today.

Hieu Vu

Shows the front of Kohls Store

Kohls - Santa Margarita

  • Nurse Shoplifted
  • Dissmissed without DEJ
Sephora South Coast Shoplifting and Petty Theft

Sephora South Coast Plaza

  • School Teacher Caught Shoplifting at Sephora South Coast
  • Case Dismissed without Diversion
Shows the front of Fullerton Costco

Costco - Fullerton

  • Engineer caught stealing printer cartridges
  • Dismissed

Macy's South Coast Plaza

  • Stay at Home Mom caught stealing clothes
  • Dismissed
Shows the front of a Sephora Store

Sephora - South Coast Plaza

  • International Student caught stealing makeup
  • Case Dismissed
Shows the front of Macys at South Coast Plaza

Macy's - South Coast Plaza

  • Student caught stealing hundreds worth of clothes and had tools
  • Case Dismissed
Shows teh front of Saks Fifth at the Outlets

Saks Fifth - Orange Outlets

  • Accountant caught stealing  
  • Dismissed

Fry's Electronic - Fountain Valley

  • Client caught stealing camera equipment and memory cards.
  • Dismissed

Nordstrom - South Coast Plaza

  • Mom caught stealing
  • Dismissed
Shoplifting at Sears South Coast Plaza

Sears - South Coast Plaza

  • Dad stole clothes
  • Case dissmissed
Talk with an attorney who has a proven track record.

There are  creative plea bargains that can still be done when you are caught shoplifting. This is despite camera evidence. Having a experienced attorney handling your theft offense can mean the difference between a penalty, fines and community service or a dissmissal on your case.

Petty Theft and Shoplifting Punishments

Graphic showing what happens after conviction on Sholifting

A Shoplifting charge does not end at just no jail.

The punishment for Petty Theft and Shoplifting differ in California. The policies will differ on county (jurisdcition)and prosecuting agency. For example, LA county and Orange will have different ways of approaching petty theft defense and any subsequent conviction. In addition even in the same county prosecuting agencies will differ in how much they are willing to give in exchange for a dissmissal. For example,  Orange County District Attoreny's Office will be open to a pretrial diversion program  but Anaheim City Prosecutors will care aabout any anti theft class. 

How much do you have to steal to go to jail

Based on the amount In Orange County you will start looking jail anywhere from 750 taken and up.  In addition the prospect of jail is very real if this is a felony theft case. Some cases can result in imprisonment in county jail, or cal trans in lieu of xx days in jail (this means you promise to if you do not finish cal trans then you will go to your jail sentence),

Other factors that affect punishment for petty theft include whether there was a trespass along with the offense and the sophistication involved.  Time in jail is reserved for the more sophisticated theft defenses where people try to take large amounts from the victim or bring tools to remove protection devices. 

What is the Definition Petty Theft?

According to California Instructions 1800 given to jurors to prove that you are guilty of this crime, the People must prove all the elements of theft:

  • 1) You took possession of property owned by someoneelse
  • 2) You took the property without the owner's consent '3)When the you took the property you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently/ [or] to remove it from the owner's [or owner's agent's] possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property); and
  • 4) You moved the property, even a small distance, and kept it for any period of time, however brief.

Most people who are cited for petty theft are held to  for Penal Code 484-488 

(a) Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft. In determining the value of the property obtained, for the purposes of this section, the reasonable and fair market value shall be the test, and in determining the value of services received the contract price shall be the test. If there be no contract price, the reasonable and going wage for the service rendered shall govern. For the purposes of this section, any false or fraudulent representation or pretense made shall be treated as continuing, so as to cover any money, property or service received as a result thereof, and the complaint, information or indictment may charge that the crime was committed on any date during the particular period in question. The hiring of any additional employee or employees without advising each of them of every labor claim due and unpaid and every judgment that the employer has been unable to meet shall be prima facie evidence of intent to defraud.

Talk with an attorney who has a proven track record.

There are many things that can still be done when you are caught shoplifting. This is despite camera evidence. Having a skilled attorney in this process can mean the difference between a conviction and a clean record.

Long Term Consequences of Petty Theft and Shoplifting

What are the Long Term Affects of a Shoplifting Misdeameanor on Your Record?

Moral Turpitude

These are serious charges of moral turpitude and that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. Employers frown strongly on this. It is very difficult to find a job with a moral turpitude conviction on your record. Moral turpitude convictions outweigh other crimes when it comes to employment. For example, many employees will pick a person who has a DUI or assault with a deadly weapon over and even domestic violence over one with a petty theft charge. 

How Can I Use My Clean Record (Lack of Arrest) or Argue this is a First Time Shoplifting to My Record?

You need to let the prosecutors  know that you have a clean criminal record. You don't have to be a student to get this case dismissed. There have been plenty of doctors, engineers and teachers and nurses who have been caught shoplifting. By picking the right theft defense attorney you can avoid the collateral consequences that comes with a conviction. 

Keep your Record Clean.

Stop a Petty Theft and Shoplifting Conviction from hitting your record. 

Defenses to Shoplifting and Petty Theft

It's not just being caught red handed.

Are There Any Defenses Available to Petty Theft Charges?

There are many ways defenses to Petty Theft and Shoplifting. One of the main ones is that you did not intend to steal the item. This defense comes into play when you have not left the building and not under a trespass restrcition from a prior theft crime. For example, a person may choose to hold on to an item and walk to the exit. They will not make it to the exit however, they will get stopped. These are just one of the many defenses.

California Petty Theft and Shoplifting Laws (Penal Code 484 & 459.5 PC)

Petty Theft and Shoplifting is a fascinating area and even with cameras not everything will make it into court. The laws of evidence will keep things out and may help you. The concept of beyond a reasonable doubt will also be in your favor. What actually happened and what could be proved in court are two different things. It’s worth it to consider attacking the case head on especially in light of the penalties.

What happens in court for petty theft

The state must show all the elements of a crime for the purpose of a Petty Theft and Shoplifting.

Defenses to Shoplifting and Petty Theft

When you can prove that the item actually belongs to you, this is a strong defense against Petty Theft and Shoplifting. This is among the instances when keeping receipts, even for a cheap toy you bought to keep your toddler mum while you shop around.A mother and her two years old girl were stopped at the store exit. They were speculated for taking a new Barbie doll from the store's shelf. Thanks God, the petit Barbie doll she (the two year old) was cuddling had visible scratches on the face and had a trace of strawberry ice cream in its clothes. Both of these collaborated that the doll was not taken off the display stand and was in fact the little girl's doll.

The cashier forgot to punch it. While you were at the cashier's booth, an item was not successfully scanned so it remained unpaid. Absolutely, there is no criminal intent in this case. In fact, you are going to trial for something you may not have even imagined to commit.There are other lines of shoplifter defense to convince the jury that you are not guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But, it all depends on the virtuosity of your lawyer if he could prove your defense.

So in the end you've got caught red handed and you admitted to stealing and you fessed up and you told them everything. It doesn't mean that you have to go down and suffer a conviction. There's so many ways around things and depending on the jurisdiction, your theft defense lawyer can hustle to get you into a anti theft class in exchange for a dissmissal. 

There are times when there is not much that can be done and all you can do is be in damage control. Let's say for instance you were part of a ring of shoplifters and you guys were caught on camera with complete video evidence repeatedly shoplifting.   The Loss Prevention knew all your techniques and knew the amount you always stole was under 200 and that you always had people come in afterwards with receipts to cash in the goods.

You can be facing bigger charges however for one reason or another prosecuting agency missed the fact that you were on probation and gave you a good sentence. This may the time to wrap it up and go home as opposed to racking up additional tresspass and theft cahrges.

Every case is different. It's better to know that there were many times you did do the shoplifting without getting caught and the prosecuting agency only knows about this time only.

There are Burdens of Proof the State must Show

The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the facts of your case. The beyond a reasonable doubt standard is the highest one standard.

infographic listing facts about petty theft in california

Petty theft are cases that do not always end up with convictions.

Not all shoplifting incidents result in a conviction

When Does a Petty Theft Change into 2nd Degree Burglary?

Things may get trickier if the person shoplifting was caught with tools and the facts show that person had a sophisticated setup to come in and steal for the purpose Petty Theft and Shoplifting. If this was the case then you may be charged with 2nd degree burglary.

When does a Petty Theft Change into a Robbery?

Finally, if you were stopped by the Loss Prevention and you used force to resist and that force you used effectuated the escape which caused you to get caught then you are looking at a charge of robbery. You will be looking at more than a shoplifting citation and will probably need a bail bonds man for your numerous court cases.

We are talking about months in jail or possibly years if a person gets a felony conviction as a result of shoplifting. This happens often when a person is stopped by loss prevention and uses force (push shove)  to effectuate an escape and turns this into a robbery the jail time will increase if there was an injury to the victim.  This is called an Estes Robbery

However, for most people that is not the case. The other charge that is often associated with Petty Theft & Shoplifting is the charge of grand theft.

How much do you have to steal to go to jail

Petty theft alone on a first time will not results in hail time. It will only end in a criminal record. However, where a person steals a substantial amount then the possibility of jail time will go up.

How long will a warrant for petty theft stay active before the courts just drop the entire thing

Grand theft is reserved for crimes where the amount stolen is over $950.oo dollars. In addition, some grand thefts are felonies and involve jail time. 

However, for most people that is not the case. The other charge that is often associated with Petty Theft & Shoplifting is the charge of grand theft. Grand theft is reserved for crimes where the amount stolen is a substantial amount. In addition, some grand thefts are felonies and involve jail time.

Stop additional chages

You may be at risk for 2nd degree burglary and grand theft. 

Other Collateral Consequences to Consider When dealing with Petty Theft and Shoplifting


Civil Problems from the Department Store

You will most likely get a civil demand later from the department store citing a civil code which entitles them to money. This is called restitution. They are legally entitled to it; however it is important that you consult your lawyer on how to handle these letters.

Petty Theft and Shoplifting Laws may differ from state to state. I get clients who are accused for Costa Mesa Shoplifting. For one reason or another, clients love to shoplift at department stores. Clients will questions about things outside the criminal justice system once they are caught.

One of these questions is whether they should pay the demand letter which is sent to them as a result of their Shoplifting case.

The consensus in the criminal defense community is to not pay them. These are letters are generated in bulk to take advantage of the Shoplifting Laws. In addition to this, they may follow up with their threat, but they will be unable to make a profit. These are not profitable lawsuits for them. They generate these letters because a lot of people pay them. A lot of people do not know better and pay these. They say hindsight is 20/20.

There have been offices that are willing to go as far as putting a negative credit mark on a person's report, but this is probably illegal.

Furthermore, another reason to consider not paying this is that the letters are not civil compromises. Paying these letters does not make the criminal charges go away. The only thing these things go away is your nervousness and your money. At the end of the day you still have to deal with the Shoplifting Laws and the criminal charges involved with your Costa Mesa Shoplifting case.

Paying the letter will not make the case go away. It's a quick fix for your anxiety and the like most quick fixes your shoplifting case will not disappear these letters regenerated in bulk. The companies who generate these letters make money off the people who are scared and pay them. These letters are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Letter from Saks Fifth Avenue when someone gets caught shoplifting

Dispute your Civil Case

Attorneys who represent department stores will back down when they see a person has representation. 


Stay Away Order from the place

You will be ordered to stay away from the store and your information will be put into a database which will prevent you from going back to the store.


Criminal Record

You will also get a criminal record, however let's say this happens, you can still get your case expunged later. However, until then you will have a misdemeanor on your record.

Shoplifting laws are the same; however the consequences are different depending on which court you are at. Despite the name petty theft, having a history of petty theft is very detrimental to your future.

Employers are very reluctant to hire anyone with a criminal record . This is even more so with a person with a theft crime in their background. You simply need to ask yourself, do you want someone with a theft background working for you?

Escape a Criminal Conviction

Keep your record clean with an award winning attorney.


Possible Jail Time

In some circumstances you can be exposed to jail time.

Using Your Clean Record to Dismiss the Case

Can petty theft be dismissed?

The short answer is yes. Shoplifting Laws will differ from county to county. Some counties may not let a person do diversion. There are creative tools legal tools out there to structure an agreement where a person will get their punishment or treatment and not have to suffer a conviction. These tools are referred to as DA continuance or Diversion. 

What is Diversion in Orange County for a Shoplifting like?

The best way to explain this is with an analogy. A diversion is when a person agrees to enter a plea of guilty to a charge on paper. The court will take this into account on a charge on Shoplifting and put it into his back pocket and not enter the judgment. The court will make the person agree to not having any further law enforcement contact for a period of time. If this happens then the court reopens the case and tear up the charge.

The good thing about this is that the charges are never entered therefore it is not a conviction.As a result, when the day comes to tear up this paper, it will be like the charge never happened. However this works as a double edge sword as well. If a person enters a guilty plea to the charge and messes up then the plea will be used against him.

Do you have a clean record?

Your spotless record as a reason to get you into a diversion program.

Talk with Counsel and Keep your immaculate record.

For example, John enters a guilty plea and gets put on diversion then he goes out to Macy's at South Coast Plaza and steals some clothes and gets caught then this guilty plea will be sued against him. There will not be much for the charging agency to do because the plea was already entered.

Do you have a clean record?

We can use your spotless record as a reason to get you into a diversion program. 

For example, John enters a guilty plea and gets put on diversion then he goes out to Macy’s at South Coast Plaza and steals some clothes and gets caught then this guilty plea will be sued against him. There will not be much for the charging agency to do because the plea was already entered.