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Shoplifting Laws (PC 459.5) in California

PC 459.5: Shoplifting Laws

Legal Definition: (a) Notwithstanding Section 459, shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 459.5, the prosecution must show that:1. You entered a commercial establishment;2. When you entered the commercial establishment, it was open during regular business hours;AND3. When you entered the commercial establishment, you intended to commit theft.

What does this mean?

You do not need to have actually committed theft as long as you entered the business with the intent to do so. A person enters a structure if some part of his or her body or some object under your control penetrates the area inside the structure’s outer boundary. A structure’s outer boundary includes the area inside a window screen.

To intend to steal from the establishment, it must be shown that you intended to deprive the owner of it permanently/to remove it from the owner’s or owner’s agent’s possession for so extended a period of time that the owner would be deprived of a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property. If you do not enter a commercial establishment with this intent, you cannot be found guilty of Shoplifting.

An example of this would be a person who enters a book store with the intent to put four books into their bag and to sneak out of the store without paying for them.

Please note that I am an AI language model and cannot provide legal expertise or advice. It is always advisable to consult with an experienced professional in matters of law.


A violation under PC 459.5 is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted under this section, you can be sentenced to up to 180 days in County Jail. You would be required to serve 50% of that sentence. You can also be fined up to $1,000, as well as pay back restitution for whatever items you took from the business. However, if you have certain serious prior convictions on your record as found under Prop 47, then 459.5 PC may be punished as a California felony. These serious prior convictions include homicide, forcible sex crimes, and any crime that requires you to register under PC 290.Because this is a crime of theft, it would be considered a crime of moral turpitude, that would affect people’s Immigration status as well as their Professional Licenses. However, it is not a Strike offense under the California Three Strike Law.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of Rights

An experienced and trustworthy Criminal Defense Attorney can utilize a Civil Compromise as a common method to potentially dismiss your case under this section. This involves your attorney contacting the store and negotiating a monetary repayment for the damages or stolen items, resulting in an agreement to dismiss the charges against you in criminal court. In certain cases, diversion programs may also be available, allowing you to perform community service, pay fines, attend classes, and ultimately have your case dismissed. It is important to note that these options are only applicable if the elements of the crime are met. If it can be demonstrated that you had no intention of stealing when you entered the store, the Prosecutor will not be able to find you guilty due to insufficient evidence of a crime. Additionally, it is necessary for the business to be open for this charge to apply. However, if you enter a closed building, you would be guilty of a more serious offense referred to as Burglary under PC 459. In other words, if the business is not open, you may not be guilty of Shoplifting, but you could still face a more severe burglary charge.

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Facing charges under PC 459.5, which pertains to Shoplifting, can be a daunting experience. The potential consequences of a conviction can have long-lasting impacts on various aspects of your life, from employment prospects to personal reputation. In such situations, expert legal guidance is paramount.

Our PC 459.5 Ontario attorney, known for their extensive experience and in-depth knowledge in the realm of Shoplifting defenses, has a commendable track record of successfully defending numerous clients accused under PC 459.5. We prioritize the rights and interests of our clients, ensuring they are well-represented and informed throughout the legal process.

If you or someone you know is grappling with such charges, don’t hesitate to reach out. Secure your future by availing the expert legal counsel of our team. Schedule your free initial consultation with Inland Empire Criminal Defense by calling 909-939-7126. Our offices are strategically located in Ontario, CA, ensuring accessibility and convenience for our clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

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We offer both in-person and over-the-phone consultations to accommodate your preferences and needs. Whether you’re in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Los Angeles County, we ensure that you can access our legal services in the way that suits you best.

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Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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