California has a very specific definition of shoplifting. Shoplifting is either the act of theft from a retail business or entering during business hours with the intention to steal from a retail business. As long as the items involved are worth $950 or less, an individual accused of attempting to steal from a business will face shoplifting charges instead of other theft charges.
You don’t need to actually leave the store with stolen goods in your possession for the business to claim that you are a shoplifter. You could be arrested even before you reach the checkout lane. What kinds of behaviors might constitute shoplifting in California?
Any attempt to hide merchandise or deactivate security devices
If retail businesses could only prosecute those that successfully left the store with concealed merchandise, they would have a hard time preventing shoplifting or prosecuting the people who steal from them.
Managers, security guards and loss prevention professionals receive training on how to identify potential shoplifters and stop them before they exit the store with merchandise. They will pay close attention to people wearing certain clothing or carrying certain items, like tools that can be used to deactivate or remove security tags.
If a manager or security professional sees a customer put an item in their pocket, tuck something into their purse, switch price tags on items or hide one piece of merchandise inside another item, they may stop an individual and call the police before they ever exit the store. Recognizing why your innocent behavior led to allegations of shoplifting can help you plan your criminal defense strategy.