Petty Theft Attorney in Orange County

My name’s Hieu Vu I’m a criminal defense attorney in Orange County California.  I will defend your right sot avoid the consequences of a ptty theft conviction. 

I’ve handled hundreds of cases at South coast Plaza, Sephora, Fry’s, Costco and Kohls with successful results.  I’ve seen every kind of variation there is. Having a experienced attorney handling your theft offense can mean the difference between a penalty, fines and community service or a dismissal on your case.

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Table of Contents

Orange County Petty Theft Attorney - Recent Case Results

Kohls Santa Margarita
Kohls - Nurse Shoplifted at Santa Margarita
  • Needed a dismissal to protect license
  • Dissmissed without DEJ
Shoplifting at Sephora – Luxury to Arrest. What Happens Next?
Sephora South Coast Plaza - School Teacher Shoplifted
  • School Teacher Needed off the record dismissal to protect llicense for Shoplifting at Sephora South Coast
  • Case Dismissed without formal Diversion
costco fullerton 1
Costco Fullerton - Engineer Caught Stealing
  • Engineer was head of house hold Dismissed
macys south coast plaza 1
Macy's South Coast Plaza - Stay at Home Mome
  • Stay at Home Mom caught stealing clothes
  • Dismissed
Fullerton courrthouse
  • International Student caught stealing makeup
  • Dismissed Case
Saks Fifth The outlets at Orange
Saks Fifth Orange Outlets - Accountant
  • Accountant caught stealing 
  • Dissmissed without DEJ
Shoplifting at Sephora – Luxury to Arrest. What Happens Next?
Sephora South Coast Plaza - School Teacher Shoplifted
  • Accountant caught stealing   at Sephora South Coast
  • Dismissed
Frys Anaheim
Fry's Electronic Fountain Valley - Caught Stealing Cameras
  • Engineer was head of house hold Dismissed
macys south coast plaza 1
Nordstrom South Coast Plaza - Male Caught with Clothes
  • Stay at Home Mom caught stealing clothes
  • Dismissed
Fullerton courrthouse
Sears South Coast Plaza - Dad Caught
  • International Student caught stealing makeup
  • Dismissed Case

Petty Theft Charges in Orange County - Frequently Asked Questions

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.

What is the Definition Petty Theft in California?

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 someone else

  • 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 felonious 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.

Petty Theft and Shoplifting Punishments in Orange County

Orange County Shoplifting Attorney Shoplifting Punishment and Long Term Affects

The punishment for Petty Theft and Shoplifting differ in California.

The punishment for petty theft will differ in counties. However, it is highly unlikely you will go to jail if convicted. A conviction for petty theft will involve only probation and fines.

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 Affecting Punishment

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. 

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.

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. 

Professional License Issues 

A Petty Theft conviction will cause issues with your state license. If you are in the process of becoming a lawyer, real estate license or nurse then you will have to adress the conviction in your application.  This has the potential to slow down your license. It’s important to stop the conviction if you are planning get a license.

Keep your Record Clean.

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

Orange County Defenses to Shoplifting and Petty Theft

shoplifting checklist 2

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 restriction 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.

The Item already belonged to you.

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 or did not check under your bag purse.

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.

Using Your Clean Record to Dismiss Your Theft Offense in Orange County

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 policies will differ on county (jurisdiction)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.

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.

How Can I Use My Clean Record to Stop the Conviction from Happening?

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. 

Clean Record Can Overcome Being Caught

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 dismissal. 

The Clean record can be used to prevent convictions even when the evidence is overwhelming

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.

There are Burdens of Proof the State must Show

guilt chart 1

Not all shoplifting incidents result in a conviction

Orange County Shoplifting Attorney ways to prevent a conviction

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

8 things to know about your petty theft charge scaled 1

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.

Civil Demand 1 1

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
if you plead guilty

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

Generally Petty Theft Does Not Involve Jail.

Petty theft alone on a first time will not result in jail 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. However, under certain circumstances jailtime is involved. 

If you brought tools into the store then you can be facing an additional charge of 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.

Robbery – When Using Force to Effectuate an Escape

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 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.

Triggering a Probation Violation Can Cause Jail Time.

You can be facing bigger charges than a petty theft if you are already on probation. When you are on probation then you cab be re sentenced to the maximum jail time on your case. However for one reason or another prosecuting agency decided not to do that and the court agreed but reserved their powers to sentence you to the maximum unless you violated by committing a new crime. By picking up a new crime and being caught this will lead to a probation violation. 

Stealing more than 950.00 Worth of Merchandise Can Result in Jail Time.

Grand theft is reserved for crimes where the amount stolen is over $950.00 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.

Penal Code 487