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    Can You Be Charged With Theft If You Accidentally Shoplift in California?

    Posted on: August 17th, 2023 by

    Shoplift in California | Dod Law | Best Criminal Defense LawyerACCIDENTALLY SHOPLIFT IN CALIFORNIA

    You are in a hurry to get home and stop at the grocery store on your way home from work. As you’re grabbing other food, you grab two cases of water and you put them under the cart on the rack. You get through the checkout counter and head out the door. As you are loading your groceries into the back of the car, the security guard approaches you and accuses you of shoplifting. You show your receipt to which he responds you have two cases of water that are not on the receipt.  Accidentally shoplift in California.

    While you had no intention of leaving the store without paying for items, it appears that you have done exactly that. You return to the store with the security guard and are met by a local patrol officer who indicates you may be charged with theft of property. You immediately offer to return the water or pay for it before you head home. However, can accidental shoplifting result in a charge for theft?


    While you may be charged with theft for accidental shoplifting, don’t worry – there are several ways an accidental shoplifting episode can be defended, including:

    • Did not intend to leave without paying: Sometimes, when items are stacked together or they are below a cart, the shopper forgets about them and leaves the store without paying for them. This can be used as a defense for a theft crime.
    • Distracted while shopping: In the instance where someone received a telephone call while shopping or checking out, they may have become distracted and had no idea they left the store without paying for items under their cart.

    One of the most important things which a prosecutor must prove when charging someone with petty theft is that the person who committed a shoplifting offense had the intention of depriving the owner of the property without having compensated them for the property.

    Whenever you are facing a petty theft charge, even if you had no intention of shoplifting, you should seek immediate assistance from a criminal defense attorney in California. This is not something you should attempt to handle on your own because the outcome is important to your future.


    Petty theft crimes are charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, this means that the person will have a criminal record if they are found guilty. The value of the items and the intent behind the theft will dictate the penalty someone can face. These include:

    • Item valued at less than $50 and no prior record: In these cases, the penalty would likely be a fine of up to $250.
    • Item valued between $50 and $950 and no prior record: Financial penalties could be upwards of $1,000 and the defendant may also face jail time of up to six months.
    • Prior record and petty theft: Any person who has a prior theft conviction who is found guilty of a second petty theft may face up to a $1,000 fine and a county jail sentence of up to six months.

    These penalties are serious and anyone who is facing a theft charge should be in immediate contact with a criminal defense attorney who can help them defend against the charges of theft when the shoplifting was accidental.


    When you are facing a shoplifting charge or theft charge of any type, the best option you have is to find a skilled criminal defense lawyer to help you fight back against these charges. Keep in mind, a criminal record can have an impact on your personal life in various ways.

    If you are facing any type of criminal theft charges in California, contact Dod Law, APC immediately for help. Our favorite two words are “not guilty.” We have over 19 years of experience and are committed to helping people who have made bad decisions or accidentally stolen property fight back against the charges they are facing and move forward with their lives. You can reach our offices by calling our office at (619) 814-5110 or by using our convenient online contact form. We will work hard to defend you against any petty theft charges you may be facing.



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