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Expansion of Shoplifting Definition in California Actually Reduces Penalties

Sep 14, 2017 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense

At first glance, a California Supreme Court decision expanding the definition of shoplifting could look concerning for accused offenders. However, the Supreme Court’s March 2017 decision is actually good news. By applying Proposition 47, a voter initiative to reduce prison overcrowding, the court actually reduced penalties for a variety of theft-related offenses. There is now a greater chance than before of getting a misdemeanor punishment.

If you are currently facing charges for shoplifting, larceny, or another theft-related offense, contact our experienced California criminal defense attorney at Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer. We will explain how Proposition 47 and this recent decision may impact your case, and how to best defend yourself against these accusations.

Use our online form or call (559) 443-7442 today to schedule your initial case consultation.

Proposition 47

To understand how the California Supreme Court came to its decision, you must review Prop. 47, which was approved by voters in November 2014. The purpose of this initiative was to reduce a number of non-violent and non-serious crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This would enable judges to hand down more lenient punishments that included little-to-no incarceration, thereby reducing the number of individuals in state facilities. The initiative also enabled re-sentencing for individuals currently incarcerated for the offenses that were reduced to misdemeanors.

The felony crimes that were reduced to misdemeanors were:

  • Personal use of most illegal drugs
  • Shoplifting, when the value of the property stolen did not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, when the value of the property stolen did not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, when the value of the property stolen did not exceed $950
  • Fraud, when the value of the fraudulent check or other instrument did not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, when the value of the check did not exceed $950
  • Forgery, when the value of the forged check, bond, or other instrument did not exceed $950

People v. Gonzales

In the case of People v. Gonzales, the California Supreme court determined that under Prop 47, shoplifting encompassed more than stealing merchandise. In a 5-2 opinion, the court decided Prop 47 intended for any unlawful taking of property worth less than $950 to be reduced to a misdemeanor – not just traditional shoplifting. This expanded definition of shoplifting applies Prop 47 to non-traditional shoplifting offenses, like theft by false pretenses.

What Does This Mean For You?

This California Supreme Court decision is important. The expansion of what shoplifting means under Prop 47 enables more accused offenders—or current prisoners—to get misdemeanor sentences for what was previously felony conduct. If you have been accused of any type of theft offense related to property valued at less than $950, and you do not have a serious, violent, or sex crime conviction on your record, you must now be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. When you face a misdemeanor, you are in a better position to avoid jail time and harsh collateral consequences.

Our Shoplifting Defense Attorney Is Here to Help

If you or a loved one are facing charges for a theft offense, contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. What may have been a felony offense in the past may now be a misdemeanor. As your criminal defense attorneys, we will fight to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed. If prosecutors wish to move forward with the case, we may consider a number of strategies depending on the circumstances. We may attempt to negotiate your entrance into a diversion program to avoid a conviction, negotiate a plea bargain to minimize the consequences of a conviction, or fight for a jury verdict of acquittal.

To learn more about the charges against you and the potential statutory punishments and collateral consequences, call us at (559) 443-7442, or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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