Arrested for Shoplifting in California? Five Things You Need to Know

March 26, 2013  •  Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one were arrested for grand theft, petty theft and/or commercial burglary in Los Angeles County or anywhere else in California, here’s five things  you need to know:

1)Remember when they told you to “Just Admit Everything And You Wouldn’t Be Charged?”  That Was a Lie.  Yeah, sorry.  That loss prevention officer who took you into that little room and told you that if you just told the truth that nothing bad would happen to you?  Lies.  All lies.  You may have figured this out by now, but that confession you made to the store detective or that you wrote out is going to be used against you.

  • 2) Be wary of an attorney who promises you a “civil compromise” to prevent prosecution.  Technically speaking, if you are charged with a misdemeanor petty theft case, a civil compromise is available under Penal Code 1377.  In a civil compromise, the defendant negotiates a settlement with the store and the case gets dismissed.  But I’m telling you right now, if you stole from a big chain store or a store that is owned by a bigger corporation, the odds of getting a civil compromise are very low.  If a defense lawyer tells you that he/she will “get you a civil compromise” ask them to do the following:  1) Put the guarantee in writing in their retainer agreement; 2) Give you the last three cases (with case numbers) where they obtained a civil compromise from a big chain store.    Watch what happens.

    3)  Do NOT pay the letter from a civil law firm demanding money until you talk to a lawyer.   You’re going to get a letter from a law firm, probably from Florida with a local office in California, making a “civil demand” for damages.  This letter will tell you to pay a few hundred bucks by a certain date under the threat of a higher payment.  Do not pay.  It has nothing to do with your criminal case.  Paying it will not make your criminal case go away.  This letter is a shakedown to get more money out of you.  They’re banking on the fact that you are scared and vulnerable.  Your lawyer can explain it to you in detail.  But do not panic and just pay what they’re asking.  You’re throwing money away.

    4)  Get Honest With Yourself.  Do you have a problem with stealing?  Do you steal items you don’t really need. Do you steal even though you may be able to afford it?  Are you worried that you’re addicted to the thrill of it? Is there another underlying issue?  I know it is embarrassing and tough to admit, but  you MUST get some help to get this under control.  Why do you need help?  Because you can’t control this on your own.  You’ve now been arrested for it (maybe more than once). In California, petty theft (shoplifitng) is what’s known as a “priorable” offense.  This means the punishment will increase every time you get caught.  The third time you get caught, you could be charged with a felony. Also, if you get out in front of this and get into counseling to deal with the issue, an experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to use this to help your case.

    5) Even If You Were Caught and You Confessed, You Still May Have A Defense.  Look, I get it.  You were caught with the clothes in the bag or you confessed you changed price tags or whatever.  Plus you confessed.  Plus they say they have you on video.  Whatever the case may be, DO NOT just go to court and plead guilty.  Every courthouse deals with these cases differently.  I’m a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.  I can tell you that the way these cases are handled in Beverly Hills courthouse is different than Airport courthouse which is different than downtown or Van Nuys.  It depends whether the District Attorney is prosecuting the case or the City Attorney is prosecuting the case.  It depends on the exact facts of the case. It depends on the specific circumstances of your life.  It depends on a LOT of things. Did you take not much more than $50 worth of stuff?  If so, you may be able to negotiate this down to an infraction.   Bottom line:  Call a qualified criminal defense lawyer to at talk about your case.  A good lawyer will be honest with you, give you a real assessment about your case and won’t just try to “close the deal” to get your money.

    And hey, if you want to talk to me. You can always give me a call at 310-210-0744. I’m happy to talk to you at no charge.

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