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Misdemeanor Shoplifting
Law, Penalty & Defense

PC 459.5(a) & PC 459.5-M

Information on the crime of misdemeanor shoplifting can be found at California penal code section 459.5(a).

PC 459.5 Law (Abbr.)

Shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while the establishment is open during regular business hours, and where the value of the property taken (or intended to be taken) does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950). Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is commercial burglary.

The term larceny in PC 459.5 law means theft. Theft is defined as the unlawful taking of the personal property of another person with the intent to permanently deprive the true of owner of the property.


Value of Property: The value of the property taken is usually calculated as the value listed on the item in the business, such as the price tag on a bar of soap or on a loaf of bread. But in cases where there is no price tag on the item taken the market value will be used to determine the value.

Note: Intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the property taken is required to prove a shoplifting charge, but that does not mean that the defendant must actually intend to take the property from the store. For example, if the defendant intentionally destroys an item in a store that is otherwise for sale the defendant may be charged with shoplifting because destroying an item is equal to the intent to permanently deprive the true owner of property.


Jail: PC 459.5(a) is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of shoplifting, the defendant may face up to 180 days in the county jail.



Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision instead of a jail sentence. Probation sentences may include jail time, but any jail time associated with a shoplifting charge is usually much shorter than if the jail time was not made a part of a probation sentence. Also, probation sentences are usually based on a condition that the defendant serve some time on work release or house arrest (as an alternative to a jail sentence).

PC 4019: The defendant may be entitled to reduce his or her jail or work release sentence by up to fifty percent (50%) if he or she performs his or her sentence on good behavior (day for day credit).

Note: The facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history play a large part in deciding whether the defendant will be ordered to serve actual jail time or a probation sentence e upon a conviction for any PC 459.5 charge.

Immigration consequences: Shoplifting punishment for non US citizens can include deportation, denial of immigration status, or denial of reentry into the United States.


Professionals: Consequences for licensed Professionals (doctors, dentists, therapists, nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc.) can include discipline, suspension, or revocation of a professional license if arrested or convicted of the PC 459.5(a).

Bail: The scheduled bail amount for shoplifting is $5,000 in San Bernardino County (2020). This means that if the defendant wants to remain out of custody through the criminal court process in any PC 459.5(a) case, then he or she must post a $5,000 bond with the court (usually through a bail bondsman); however, in some shoplifting cases, the defendant may be release on his promise to appear at court without more (Own Recognizance Release).


Additional penalties for shoplifting include: Probation terms that can include orders for work release or house arrest (electronic monitoring), restitution to victims, payment of fines, stay-away orders (from the business victimized), civil lawsuits, and more.

Defenses to PC 459.5(a)

Common defenses to a charge of shoplifting include: Lack of intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the property as determined by the circumstances (insufficient evidence), extreme intoxication, claim of right, coerced confessions by law enforcement, insanity, statute of limitations (1 year from the date of incident), alibi defense, mistake of fact, and more.

For more information on the crime of shoplifting, or misdemeanor PC 459.5(A)-M, contact our experienced and successful criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal attorneys are available every day to answer all of your question and discuss your defense options. Call today!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Shoplifting

Code: PC 459.5(a) (CalCrim No. 1703)

Wobbler: No. PC 459.5(a) is not a wobbler. This means that PC 459.5(a) is always charged as a misdemeanor.​


Incarceration: ​PC 459.5(a) jail sentence up to 180 days.

Probation: Probation may be available in PC 459.5(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

Strike: PC 459.5(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 459.5(a) is likely a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Bail: $5,000 (San Bernardino County)

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