California Penal Code 459.5(a) P.C.

Shoplifting typically refers to the theft of merchandise from a store or place of business with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the merchandise.

What is a Shoplifting Charge?

Under California Penal Code 459.5(a) P.C., you can be prosecuted for Shoplifting if you allegedly entered a commercial establishment with the intent to steal something worth less than nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950.00). You can be prosecuted for this crime even if nothing was actually stolen, and you merely attempted to steal the property. (If the property is valued at more than $950.00, you could be charged with Burglary.)

Shoplifting is typically charged as a misdemeanor unless you have certain prior criminal convictions, in which case you can be charged with a felony.

What are Examples of Shoplifting?

Examples of Shoplifting situations include the following:

  • You entered a Walgreen’s store and pocketed a pack of gum.
  • You entered a Target store with the intention to steal some headphones but then changed your mind before you left.
  • While you were in a CVS store, you pocketed a package of dental floss but then lost your nerve and threw it in a trashcan on your way out.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for a Shoplifting Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of Shoplifting under California Penal Code 459.5(a) P.C., the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 1703):

  • You entered a commercial establishment;
  • When you entered, it was during the commercial establishment’s regular business hours; and
  • When you entered the commercial establishment, you intended to commit theft.

What Happens If I am Convicted of a Shoplifting Charge?

If you are convicted of Shoplifting under California Penal Code 459.5(a) P.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • Six months in county jail (if you are convicted of a misdemeanor); and
  • A maximum fine of $1,000;
  • Probation of three or five years (felony or misdemeanor);
  • Possible community service (felony or misdemeanor); and
  • Possible loss of ability to obtain or maintain a professional license, loss of employment or educational opportunities, or adverse immigration consequences (if applicable).

Alternatively, particularly if you are a first-time offender, you could be sentenced to Diversion. If this happens, the judge will stay your sentence for 12-18 months to allow you the opportunity to complete certain court-ordered conditions, such as counseling and/or community service. If you successfully complete Diversion, then the charges against you will typically be dismissed.

What are My Possible Defenses to a Shoplifting Charge?

Shoplifting cases can often be resolved in its investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Shoplifting attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the City Attorney’s Office for prosecution (for misdemeanors), or to convince the C.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Shoplifting, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of an accident or unintentional conduct, or that the City Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Shoplifting.

The following are the possible defenses to a Shoplifting charge:

  • Lack of intent. At the time of the incident, you did not have the intent to commit the alleged act. For example, you forgot to pay for the item before exiting the commercial establishment.
  • Intent to steal formed after entry. It was only after you entered the commercial establishment that you intended to steal something.
  • False accusations. The supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who committed the alleged shoplifting. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, racial profiling, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Shoplifting Charges Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented hundreds of clients against Shoplifting charges, including property allegedly taken from all types of businesses and properties, and has defended both adults and juveniles.


If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Shoplifting criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).


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Los Angeles, CA 90036

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