If you're looking for a California online shoplifting class, it's important to know your California theft laws. This can help you understand more about your offense.
Please note that the California theft and shoplifting laws displayed on this page are to help you to understand your state California theft, shoplifting and stealing laws. While we have tried to show the latest version of California theft laws, we do not guarantee its accuracy. This page is not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney. We suggest that you find an appropriate lawyer for more information about California theft laws.
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There are two degrees of theft: grand theft and petty theft.
In California, grand theft is defined as the unlawful taking of money, labor, or real or personal property valued at more than four hundred dollars ($400), except as specified in the following provisions.
Grand theft is also committed under the following circumstances:
When specific agricultural products such as domestic fowls, avocados, olives, citrus or deciduous fruits, other fruits, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, or other farm crops are taken and their value exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
When fish, shellfish, mollusks, crustaceans, kelp, algae, or other aquacultural products are taken from a commercial or research operation producing such products, and their value exceeds two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
When money, labor, or property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from their principal or employer, and the total value amounts to nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or more within a consecutive 12-month period.
Additionally, grand theft is applicable when property is taken directly from the person of another.
The offense of grand theft is further categorized if the stolen property falls into specific categories:
(a) Any person who intentionally steals, takes, transports, or possesses the body of any bovine, caprine, equine, ovine, suine animal, mule, jack, or jenny belonging to someone else, or who fraudulently misappropriates such property entrusted to them, is charged with grand theft.
(b) Any person who intentionally steals, takes, transports, or possesses any part of the body of any bovine, caprine, equine, ovine, suine animal, mule, jack, or jenny that has been unlawfully killed without the owner's consent, is charged with grand theft.
If a person intentionally takes real estate valued at $250 or more, separates it from its original location, and converts it into personal property with the intent to steal, they are committing grand theft. This offense is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.
If a person intentionally takes real estate valued at less than $250, separates it from its original location, and converts it into personal property with the intent to steal, they are committing petty theft. This offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Anyone who intentionally steals, takes, or attempts to take another person's gold dust, amalgam, or quicksilver from a mining claim, tunnel, sluice, undercurrent, riffle box, or sulfurate machine is committing grand theft. This offense is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.
If a person unlawfully steals, takes, or physically removes a dog that belongs to someone else and the dog is valued at more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), it is considered grand theft.
If a person unlawfully steals, takes, or physically removes a dog that belongs to someone else and the dog is valued at no more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), it is considered petty theft.
Anyone who steals or maliciously takes or carries away another person's animal for purposes of sale, medical research, slaughter, or other commercial use, or who knowingly defrauds another person of an animal for these purposes, is guilty of a public offense. The punishment for this offense can include imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year or in a state prison.
If a person steals, takes, or carries away cargo belonging to someone else, and the value of the cargo is more than $950, they are considered guilty of grand theft. However, there are exceptions mentioned in Sections 487, 487a, and 487d. The term "cargo" refers to goods, wares, products, or manufactured merchandise that have been loaded into a trailer, railcar, or cargo container, whether they are awaiting transport or in transit.
If an individual deceives or commits fraud against a housing program operated by a public housing authority, resulting in a loss of more than four hundred dollars ($400), they will be charged with grand theft.
If the act of grand theft includes stealing a firearm, the punishment is imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years. In all other cases of grand theft, the penalty is either imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of one year or imprisonment in the state prison.
The offense of petty theft carries a punishment of either a fine that does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding six months, or both options may be imposed.
Wherever any law or statute of this state refers to or mentions larceny, embezzlement, or stealing, said law or statute shall hereafter be read and interpreted as if the word "theft" were substituted therefor.
Petty theft involving money or property worth less than $50 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction, depending on the prosecutor's discretion and if the person has no previous theft convictions. If charged as an infraction, the penalty is a fine of up to $250, and specific provisions and sections apply to such cases.
A first conviction for petty theft of merchandise from a store or library materials results in a mandatory fine ranging from $50 to $1,000 per violation. Additionally, the person may face imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding six months, or both the fine and imprisonment as a punishment.
If an unemancipated minor commits petty theft of merchandise from a store or library materials, the merchant or library can bring a civil action against the parent or legal guardian. The parent or guardian will be held jointly and severally liable with the minor for damages ranging from $50 to $500, plus costs. If the stolen merchandise is not recoverable in a merchantable condition, the parent or guardian is liable for the retail value of the merchandise or the fair market value of the library materials. This liability is in addition to other civil remedies available, and the provisions of Section 1714.1 of the Civil Code do not apply in this case.
If an adult or emancipated minor unlawfully takes merchandise from a store or library materials from a library facility, they are liable to the merchant or library for damages ranging from $50 to $500, plus costs. If the stolen merchandise is not recoverable in a merchantable condition, the person is also liable for the retail value of the merchandise or the fair market value of the library materials. The action for recovery of damages can be brought in small claims court or any other appropriate court. These provisions are additional civil remedies and do not restrict merchants or others from pursuing other civil remedies.
Instead of paying fines as stated in subdivision (a), a person may be ordered by the court to perform public services. The number of hours of public service must be sufficient to satisfy the fine assessed by the court, based on the prevailing minimum wage at the time of sentencing.
Fines collected under this section will be distributed according to Sections 1463 and 1463.1 of the Penal Code. However, a county can allocate up to 50% of the fines, through a majority vote by the board of supervisors, to the county superintendent of schools. The superintendent will distribute these funds to local school districts for programs aimed at discouraging shoplifting, theft, and burglary. The superintendent will administer the funds, and the costs of administration will be paid from the allocated funds.
(1) Merchants, theater owners, and library employees can detain a person for a reasonable time to conduct an investigation if they have probable cause to believe that the person is attempting to unlawfully take or has unlawfully taken merchandise, operating a video recording device without authorization in a theater, or unlawfully removing books or library materials from a library facility.
(2) Merchants, theater owners, or library employees can use reasonable non-deadly force to protect themselves, prevent escape, or prevent loss of property during a detention.
(3) During the detention, items suspected to be unlawfully taken or recorded on theater premises can be examined by the merchant, theater owner, or library employee.
(4) If there is probable cause, the person detained can be asked to voluntarily surrender the item or recording, and if they refuse, a limited search of their immediate possessions can be conducted to recover the item.
(5) If a person refuses to surrender or cease operation of a video recording device in a theater, the theater owner can refuse admission or request the person to leave, offering a refund. Refusing to leave or cease operation may be deemed as interfering with a lawful business.
(6) After arresting a person for an offense covered by this section, a peace officer can search the arrested person and their immediate possessions for alleged stolen items.
(7) In a civil action resulting from a merchant's detention or arrest, it is a defense if the merchant had probable cause to believe the person stole or attempted to steal merchandise and acted reasonably under the circumstances.
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