Is It True That Shoplifting Can Be a Felony in Orange County, California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

You may have heard of people being hit with California felony penalties for shoplifting items from a store--and may have wondered if this can really happen.

The quick answer is: it is possible for someone to be charged with a felony for shoplifting. But it is now more difficult for prosecutors to charge a shoplifter with a felony than it used to be.

In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced the penalties for some minor drug and property crimes and went into effect in 2015.

Before Prop 47, people who shoplifted could technically be charged with California burglary, which can carry felony penalties. Burglary is defined as entering any building (including a store) with the intent to commit any theft or felony once inside. Technically, most premeditated shoplifting meets this definition.

But Prop 47 created a new crime called Penal Code 459.5 PC shoplifting. Under PC 459.5, people who enter an open store during normal business hours intending to steal merchandise worth $950 or less are guilty of shoplifting--and may NOT be charged with burglary. The new crime of PC 459.5 shoplifting is a misdemeanor for everyone who is not a registered sex offender and does not have certain very serious violent crimes on their record.

What this means is that, for most people, shoplifting can only be charged as a misdemeanor going forward. But there are situations in which it could be a felony, including:

  • The defendant was charged and convicted before Prop 47 went into effect;
  • The defendant stole, or intended to steal, merchandise worth more than $950 (in which case s/he may have been charged with either burglary or grand theft); and
  • The defendant has a serious violent or sex crime prior on his/her record.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370