Imagine entering a store, carefully perusing and considering its wares, only to end up exiting the store in handcuffs. Unfortunately this humiliating experience is what many people have had to face.

Recent stories like those of Tosin Ogunsiji, falsely accused of stealing cologne from a JC Penny in Florida, highlight the seriousness of being falsely accused of shoplifting.

After purchasing the bottle of cologne, Ogunsiji, a Nigerian whose second language is English, was apprehended by security and arrested on a shoplifting charge – despite having a receipt. Mr Ogunsiji subsequently spent several weeks in jail before the charges were dismissed, but was detained for a total of 3 months on subsequent immigration issues – all of which were dismissed.

Mr Ogunsiji’s attorneys claim that racial stereotyping by the store’s security team was a motivating factor in the case. 

Shoplifting Charges in California

Here in California, if a criminal case is filed against you, any one of the following three primary larceny charges will be laid:

  • Petty theft: For thefts under $950
  • Grand theft: For thefts above $950 (this can also be filed as a felony crime)
  • Burglary: If the prosecution has evidence that you had the intent to shoplift upon entering a building, you can be charged with burglary

The majority of shoplifting cases in California are petty theft, but even these can lead to jail time.

Penalties Related to Shoplifting

Mr Ogunsiji’s punishment was far more severe than most petty theft larceny charges, but the case illustrates that shoplifting can result in jail time.

Here, the California Penal Code dictates what the maximum punishments are for shoplifting. If the shoplifting charge is filed as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 6 months in a county jail and/or a fine of $1000. If a felony charge is filed, the sentence can extend to years in jail.

Defending a Shoplifting Charge

If falsely accused of shoplifting, you should not provide the security personnel or law enforcement with a formal statement. Exercise your right to stay silent until you have received the counsel of an experienced criminal lawyer.

There are a number of programs here in California in which those accused of shoplifting can participate in lieu of having to have a criminal case in court, and thereby avoid criminal prosecution. These programs can be difficult to access, but a seasoned criminal lawyer with experience in shoplifting cases will be able to help.

Regardless of the charge that may be filed against you, the key to having a positive outcome for any criminal theft case is having it properly handled by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

In many situations the Kestenbaum Law Group has been able to reduce shoplifting charges to a petty theft infraction, or have had our clients’ criminal cases completely dismissed. If you, or a loved one, has been falsely accused of shoplifting, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your case.

Contact us online or call hard working team at (818) 237-9122 for a hassle-free consultation today.