Shoplifting charges can create adverse outcomes for suspects, especially if found guilty. This stems from your criminal record, adding to the incarceration and fines. Thus, you want to fight the charges by working with a criminal defense attorney for the best chances of a successful outcome.
With your lawyer’s help, you can also pre-empt the prosecutor’s accusations and cast doubts on their evidence. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, you will receive the best criminal defense services to fight shoplifting charges. Defendants facing shoplifting charges in Anaheim, California, can contact us for professional legal services.
The Nature of Shoplifting Charges
Section 459.5 of the California Penal Code prohibits shoplifting and classifies it as a misdemeanor offense. Hence, anyone facing the charges is answerable before a criminal court. Shoplifting is classified under theft crimes as it involves unlawfully taking goods from a commercial establishment. Subsequently, the theft attracts repercussions under the Penal Code provisions.
Once you face arrest and receive charges for your alleged crime, the trial process begins. During this period, the prosecutor handles your case by preparing an argument against you. Subsequently, their goal is to ensure they prove all elements of the charged crime beyond reasonable doubt for the judge to convict you.
While the requirement sounds straightforward, the standard of proof holds the prosecutor to a strict expectation. Often, the judge will not convict you unless sufficient information is presented to satisfy each crime element. Further, the sources of proof must indicate your direct involvement in shoplifting before you can face any penalties.
Based on these guidelines and your charges, the prosecution and the defense attorneys should prepare adequately beforehand. In doing so, they will have complied with all criminal procedure requirements and the court processes necessary for a proper trial run.
Elements of Crime that the Prosecutor Must Prove
As mentioned above, the prosecutor must prove various elements of the crime for the judge to find you guilty of shoplifting. As a result, the prosecution team must satisfy the standard of proof set for all criminal charges and show your guilty involvement beyond a reasonable doubt.
Typically, the prosecutor will handle each element individually to ensure they satisfy the legal standard. Thus, you can expect lengthy hearing proceedings that include various sources of evidence. Among the most common sources are witness testimonies given orally in court. Your defense attorney can then cross-examine the witness, followed by a re-examination by the prosecutor. Since the proceedings may be lengthy, the court may adjourn and hear your matter over a long duration.
The following are the elements of the crime that the prosecution must prove during the trial:
You Entered a Commercial Establishment
Firstly, the prosecutor needs to prove that you entered a commercial establishment where the crime occurred. Entering means you physically gained access into the establishment and proceeded to commit the offense.
However, case laws show that you do not necessarily have to enter the establishment with your entire body, provided the entered part aided in the offense. For example, putting your hand through a window to shoplift may yield the same outcome as someone entering a store and stealing items. Although the circumstances may vary, your body will have entered the establishment for purposes of building a case against you.
A commercial establishment is any structure or building where goods and services are traded for monetary gains. Hence, the establishment can range from a convenience store to a small kiosk. Moreover, any place offering services like restaurants, coffee shops, and hair studios, among others, also qualify to be a commercial establishment.
When presenting evidence, the prosecutor must first prove that the location falls within the correct category. This helps to rule out any possibility of unfair accusations. For example, stealing an item from someone selling homemade products from their house does not amount to shoplifting. Nonetheless, you will still face separate charges related to theft.
Similarly, the prosecutor should provide proof of you entering the commercial establishment. They may rely on witness testimonies to support their argument, especially if the place is crowded. Further, surveillance footage or photographs may be useful sources of proof to help the prosecutor’s case. Therefore, you want to be ready for the evidential sources and find ways to cast doubts on the given information.
You Entered the Commercial Establishment During Working Hours
Secondly, the prosecutor should show that you entered the area within normal working hours to distinguish your case from other theft crime accusations. Failure to do so would attract charges like burglary or robbery, as the offenses involve breaking in outside the normal working hours.
Subsequently, the prosecutor can rely on various evidential sources to support their case when raising the issue. For example, most surveillance footage in commercial establishments provides timestamps to help reconstruct when various events occur. The prosecutor is highly likely to rely on the source of evidence, as it will show you in action and reveal the exact timing of your crime.
Alternatively, the prosecution may call on witnesses, specifically, employees working in the commercial establishment in question. Their role is to account for the actions you undertook and whether you shoplifted during working hours.
Sometimes, having the witness testify is sufficient to prove the element of the crime. This is because their presence indicates a likelihood of you committing the crime during working hours. Your criminal attorney can counter this accusation or cast reasonable doubt by questioning the accuracy of timings indicated on the footage. Additionally, they may use the cross-examination window to question the consistency of the witness testimonies issued.
You Entered the Commercial Establishment Intending to Steal Items Worth $950 or Less
Lastly, the judge must be satisfied that you had a criminal intent to steal items worth 950 or less while you entered the commercial establishment in question. The requirement serves to satisfy the criminal intent, which must be present for any criminal conviction to follow. Due to this, the prosecutor needs to provide evidence demonstrating your criminal intention for their accusations to stand.
Usually, depicting criminal intent requires the prosecution team to pay close attention to any details they obtain during investigations. This is because your thoughts are not always apparent, so proving the element requires additional scrutiny.
Subsequently, the prosecutor will rely on circumstantial evidence to find the best strategy towards proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, if you hovered around specific goods before stealing them, the hovering may provide intel on your criminal intention.
However, you should note that the prosecutor must prove a formed intention before entering the commercial establishment. Hence, they need to analyze any valid circumstantial evidence showing your intent before the theft occurred.
For example, if you communicate your intention with anyone beforehand, the evidence would be highly beneficial to help prove the prosecutor’s point. Therefore, investigation officers may have scoured your phone or computer records to obtain the sources of proof if they have reason to believe it exists.
You Stole Items From the Commercial Establishment
Finally, the prosecution team should piece the elements of crime together to show how you committed the offense in question. Usually, proving the final element will be easy, particularly if the prosecutor has successfully presented evidence on the previous factors. Nonetheless, issuing their closing argument and defining the steps leading to your theft is essential for a conclusive case. Usually, persons guilty of theft will take the item in question and move it.
You should note that how far you moved the item is immaterial, provided you displaced it from its original position. Due to this reason, you will face shoplifting accusations even if you did not manage to exit the commercial establishment with the stolen item.
As a result, you cannot rely on a counterargument to show that you did not escape with the items and that the establishment reclaimed them. The law is mostly interested in punishing unlawful actions, despite them being unsuccessful.
Possible Defenses to Raise Against Shoplifting Charges
When the prosecution team concludes their case, your criminal defense attorney will present your arguments in your defense. The presentation should encompass all aspects mentioned by the prosecution and counterarguments to cast doubt on the specific elements in dispute.
A good defense strategy should also be backed by evidential sources, as they play a significant role in building your credibility. Without proof of your claims, the judge may easily dismiss your matter as unjustified or unverified. Consequently, the prosecution team may have better chances of success, resulting in your conviction.
Working on your defenses as early as possible is crucial to presenting the best arguments in court. Due to this, your goal should be to contact your defense lawyer soon after arrest to establish the best strategies.
Usually, your defense attorney will issue advice depending on the case circumstances. Therefore, you want to give a truthful account of what transpired and led to your arrest. This extends to persons who committed the offense but are afraid to confess their actions to their attorneys. Once your lawyer understands the basics of your case, they will present viable strategies to absolve you of criminal liability.
You should remember that some defenses are inexplicable to your case, as they may contradict your argument. Hence, the best option is to assess your case factors and determine an ideal argument line to stick by. You may only need to rely on a single defense following this logic, provided you build on it adequately.
Nonetheless, learning of other applicable defenses is beneficial, as you may decide to attack the prosecutor's case from different perspectives. Thus, the following are defenses applicable to shoplifting charges:
You Face False Accusations
Some defendants are victims of false accusations made against them, meaning you did not participate in the offense entirely. If so, your criminal defense attorney should be diligent in presenting the defense to help you avoid any legal consequences.
You can also provide an alibi or any other relevant evidentiary sources to disprove the prosecutor’s claims and to justify your defense as well. If the judge is convinced that your defense is genuine, you will receive an acquittal and have no criminal record entered against you.
You Did Not Intend to Commit Theft Before Entering the Store
Proving that you lacked criminal intention to commit theft is also a strong defense to rely on, as it challenges one of the prosecutor's main elements of crime. To prove that you lacked criminal intention, your criminal defense lawyer can derive circumstantial proof that dissociates you from the allegations.
For example, you may rely on an argument stating that your goal was to enter the store and conduct some window shopping. Any criminal intent was then formed when already inside the store, which contradicts the requirement stipulated in the Penal Code.
You Made Civil Amends With the Owner of the Stolen Items
Sometimes, proceeding with a criminal trial after making amends in the civil division is counterproductive for you and the complainant. Not only does it elongate the legal process, but it also results in additional expenses in court attendance and legal fees.
Hence, raising a defense on reaching a civil settlement is valid, as it removes the need for additional fines and punishments. You can present the principle of double jeopardy to support the defense, as it protects defendants from being tried twice for the same offense. Ultimately, using this defense is advisable for better chances of having the case dismissed.
There was a Mistake of Facts In Your Case
Depending on the mistake in question, a mistake of fact may also result in wrongful accusations and trials for the affected party. For example, if you are a victim of mistaken identity, you want to raise the issue as soon as possible to avoid time-barred delays in dispensing justice.
Additionally, a mistake of fact may also arise based on the false accusations you face, as mentioned above. Consequently, the factors in your case will evoke inaccurate questions, causing you to undergo an unfair trial process. If additional mistakes regarding the type of action you undertook arise, you should inform a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to enable the appropriate action to follow.
You Did Not Move the Items In Question
As mentioned, the offense requires you to have moved the item in question to attract legal repercussions. Therefore, your criminal defense attorney can argue that you did not touch nor move the allegedly stolen item, so theft did not occur. Based on this strategy, you will have denied your involvement in theft, meaning that the entire charge should be considered baseless.
Since the defense causes significant disruption of the prosecutor’s case, you want to ensure you have sufficient evidence supporting your position. A lack of adequate justifications may evoke some concerns regarding the defense validity.
Penalties for Guilty Offenders
Any party found guilty of committing a criminal offense will face sentencing, where the judge issues directives on the punishments they will receive. Usually, the judge will schedule the sentencing hearing on a different date to provide sufficient time for drafting. Therefore, you will remain in custody or be released under conditions, depending on whether you posted bail or bond.
During the sentencing hearing, the judge may also provide a chance for you to give mitigation statements. They will help you plead for leniency before sentencing. Furthermore, your criminal defense lawyer will help you prepare any additional statements to be made before learning of the outcome. Sentences issued to guilty offenders include:
A Jail Sentence
The Penal Code provides for a jail sentence as one of the options issued to guilty offenders. Under the guidelines, the judge may issue the maximum jail sentence that lasts for six months. Conversely, the judge may exercise discretion and reduce the sentence, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Mostly, parties presenting mitigating factors are more likely to succeed in obtaining a reduced jail sentence. Therefore, your criminal defense attorney will help you prepare yourself accordingly for a better chance of securing the reduction. Despite this, the judge holds complete discretion on how to vary the sentence.
Alternatively, the judge may decide to issue a fine payment sentence in place of incarceration directives. The order serves as a good alternative for a jail sentence, as the offender may be more willing to present the payments.
The Penal Code provides the maximum fine fees as $1000, but the judge can enhance or reduce the amount at their discretion. For example, if the item you stole was cheap, you may qualify for a lower fine payment compared to someone who stole a more expensive item.
On top of this, the judge uses their discretion to determine whether you are better suited outside jail or if detention will serve better. The assessment is specially made where the case circumstances indicate your likelihood to repeat the offense if you are not incarcerated.
Consequently, the judge may issue orders for you to face jail time, as well as mandatory fine payments. If so, you want to make prior arrangements on the money transfer and prepare yourself for time spent in jail.
Commitment to a Diversion Program
The third option for guilty parties is to join a diversion program, where they are subjected to various conditional requirements. Under the program, you are expected to undergo reform by completing the different requirements under supervision.
Thus, you want to maintain compliance throughout the process for a better chance of having your case dismissed. Furthermore, compliance shows your ability to reform, making you a better candidate for case expungement. The following are requirements to satisfy upon joining the diversion program:
Completing Community Service Orders
The judge may issue community service directives, where you will have to engage in various community activities like cleaning, repairs, and feeding underprivileged persons. You will have to meet the minimum number of hours required of any person undertaking the program during the program. Afterward, you can request a case dismissal if community service was the only diversion program order issued.
Paying Restitution to the Afflicted Party
Moreover, most judges will require you to pay restitution to the afflicted party for the damages or losses caused. You are likely to receive the order if your actions amounted to significant losses that require financial compensation.
Since restitution orders should return the victim to their original position before they shoplifted, they are entitled to provide the amount they need. Despite this, your defense lawyer can raise concerns if any signs of potential exploitation are present.
Attending Mandatory Anti-Theft Counselling and Classes
If your behavior demonstrates the possibility of repeating the shoplifting offense, the judge may also require you to attend counseling sessions and anti-theft classes. Receiving these orders should help you undergo behavioral changes and reform. When compared to retributive means of reform like incarceration, the anti-theft classes have a higher success rate. However, you will need to show initiative to take the classes seriously for the judge to consider issuing the orders.
Expungement Options After Serving Your Sentence
Lastly, your criminal record may tarnish your potential to grow yourself economically and academically. This stems from the prejudice arising from background checks conducted by potential employers or academic personnel. When your records display a case outcome decided against you, your chances of securing a position at work or in school sharply decline.
Nevertheless, you may apply for expungement of records after meeting the threshold. Expungement entails destroying any criminal records in your name after the court is satisfied with your compliance with their prerequisites. After the expungement exercise is complete, your record is cleared of any criminal records, giving you a clean slate to work from. In return, you can access better opportunities to rebuild your life.
Contact a Anaheim Criminal Attorney Near Me
When you or a loved one faces shoplifting accusations, you want to build the best defenses and avoid the legal repercussions accompanying the charge. Therefore, working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer is essential to improve the chances of a positive case outcome. Your defense lawyer should demonstrate a wealth of knowledge in the theft crimes defense practice area to give you quality legal services. By contacting California Criminal Lawyer Group, you will benefit from the legal assistance you receive. Our team includes the best criminal defense attorneys. For more information on how to counter shoplifting charges in Anaheim, CA, call us today at 714-766-0965.