May 29, 2012 By Wallin & Klarich

Shoplifting in Orange County is so common that many people who otherwise consider themselves upstanding citizens have committed an offense at one time or other. Just switching a price tag with another from a less-expensive garment is stealing. Indeed, some minor offenses may not even seem unethical to many. However, shoplifting is serious, and can carry harsh penalties.

Shoplifting is an equal opportunity offender. Individuals from every background imaginable are caught. Even movie stars shoplift, as evidenced by troubled actors who have made the headlines in recent years. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, approximately 25% of shoplifting arrestees are 13-17 years old. Adults account for the remainder, and, surprisingly, a large percentage of shoplifters are employees.

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reports that 75% of employees have stolen at least one time. The loss for stores just from employees amounts to as much as $50 billion annually, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Employees naturally have an advantage among shoplifters. They know something about store security measures, and have access to areas the public doesn’t. What would motivate an employee to shoplift? Temptation certainly is a factor. Working around products one desires to own but cannot afford can lead an employee to become bitter about his paycheck. This is a mere step away from taking the item, rationalizing that he has earned it.

Teenagers often shoplift out of a desire to own what they can’t buy as well. Peer pressure for young people can be acute, and may lead them to rash acts they otherwise would never consider. However, another surprising motivation for teens caught shoplifting is boredom.

Adults, similarly, shoplift for often surprising reasons. The stereotype of the poverty-stricken woman stealing a loaf of bread to feed her starving children does not hold as a general motive in reality. While desiring an item certainly is many times a factor, adults often cite that they were reacting to the pressures of daily living. Somehow shoplifting gives them a kind of psychological relief.

Many shoplifters even suggest that they experience a “high” from the experience which has been compared to the effects of a substance such as methamphetamine. Individuals have recounted that they began shoplifting out of need, but continued because of the pleasure it provided. In some cases they actually become addicted.

It is difficult to imagine that a jail sentence will benefit a person who shoplifts under such a circumstance. Yet the penalties do not generally work to assist defendants in overcoming their habit. Rather, for an offense that involves less than $950, the defendant may be charged with petty theft and, if convicted, given a fine up to $1,000 and a maximum six months in jail. For items totaling more than $950 the charge is grand theft, a felony which carries a maximum one year in state prison.

Whether a person is charged with petty or grand theft, it is almost always in his best interests to hire a Los Angeles attorney who can help clear him. If you are so charged, the attorneys at Wallin &Klarich may be able to help. We have over 30 years of experience assisting individuals with their legal issues. Call us today at (888) 280-6839.

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