What Is Retail Theft?
Retail theft – or shoplifting – is when a person will “feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another” (Cal. Pen. Code § 484). These individuals usually take items from a store or a business, without any intention of returning or paying for it. While there are other forms of theft, for example stealing from an entrusted fund, retail theft has its own specific classifications. Recently, California passed Proposition 47, which changed the classifications for misdemeanor and felony charges. The classifications are as follows: two levels of petty theft and one level of grand theft.
Penalties Of Theft
The first level of punishment is for petty theft of property with a value of less than $50. Being caught under this category can lead to an infraction. However, it is possible for the prosecutor to decide that the theft should be charged as a misdemeanor. Furthermore, a fine of $250 can be added to the punishment.
The second level is defined as petty theft of property valued at less than $950. This is the new change that has alarmed many shop owners. Before, theft below $950 was considered to be a felony charge. However, it has now been changed to a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor charge has a mandatory fine ranging form $50 to $1000, and can include six months of jail for even first time offenders.
The third charge of felony is reserved for grand theft of property valued at $950 or greater. The punishment for this felony charge depends on the stolen property. For most cases, it includes going to jail for up to one year, while others (like stealing a firearm) can result in incarceration ranging from sixteen months up to three years.
Some business owners have claimed that Proposition 47 has resulted in an increase in petty theft since many individuals now do not have to worry about a felony charge if they steal less than $950. However, California’s theft laws are strict and enforceable. Stealing even the smallest object can taint someone’s record; the only way to avoid this is to refrain from any type of retail theft.