People who are accused of shoplifting from a retail store in California could be charged with an infraction, a misdemeanor or even a felony. The severity of shoplifting charges will depend in some cases on the value of the items that were involved in the incident and whether the accused person has prior convictions for theft on their criminal record.
Shoplifting laws often give prosecutors the freedom to use their own discretion when deciding what type of charges to pursue. In general, people who are accused of taking explosive devices or firearms from a retail establishment face more severe charges than people who have not been accused of the theft of weapons. A person with prior convictions on their record will also be more likely to be given more severe shoplifting charges.
If a prosecutor decides to charge an alleged shoplifter with an infraction, the individual will probably be fined. Misdemeanors could also result in a fine along with a sentence for probation or jail. However, jail sentences for misdemeanors will not last more than one year. People who are handed felony charges for shoplifting could face higher fines as well as longer probation and jail sentences. It is not usually necessary for a person to have left the store with the merchandise in order to receive a shoplifting charge, as in most cases concealing the items with the intent to deprive the store owner of their possession without paying for them can suffice.
Because prosecutors are allowed to use their own discretion when charging individuals with shoplifting offenses, it can be very important for an accused shoplifter to obtain the representation of a criminal defense attorney. It may be possible to negotiate an arrangement with the prosecutor that would result in a guilty plea to a lesser charge in exchange for the dismissal of more serious ones.