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What exactly is petty theft?

Have you ever walked out of a store and realized you had something on the bottom of your cart you didn’t pay for? Have you ever not returned a library book?

If you have, then you may have committed petty theft if you had the intent to steal or permanently deprive the owner of his/her property. 

Petty theft, according to California Penal Code Section 484(a) and California Penal Code Section 488 PC, can include any theft where the value of the material is less than $950.  But the code includes more than just walking out of a store. Petty theft can include:

  • Not returning rented or leased property
  • Knowingly failing to inform a cashier about being undercharged for items purchased
  • Giving false information to a pawn broker in order to sell items
  • Selling or otherwise unlawfully transferring a debit or credit card
  • Using another person’s credit card information to buy things for yourself
  • Fraudulently obtaining credit

The penalties are harsh

If you are charged with shoplifting for merchandise worth less than $950 you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. In California this is punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail. If you have prior serious or violent convictions or if you are a registered sex offender the penalties may increase.

Shoplifting is more serious than you might think

In California not only will you face criminal charges, you may also be civilly liable to the store owner for damages or loss of at least $50 but not more than $500. If the retail value of the merchandise is not recovered in salable condition you may also be liable for that.

 We are distracted and forgetful, especially in times of duress. How about you? Have you ever walked out with an item that you did not pay for?

 

 

 

 

 

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