Although the answer to this question depends on the facts of the case the answer is most likely that you will not actually go to jail for a first-time shoplifting offense in California, penal code 484. The rule of thumb is that the higher the value of items that were stolen the more severe the punishment will be. If you are charged with shoplifting or petty theft then the value of the merchandise is almost certainly under $900 and although you are unlikely facing time behind bars for a first offense there will be consequences if convicted.
As stated, the value of items that were stolen or attempted to be stolen in a petty theft case is the most relevant factor in determining what type of punishment will be imposed. If the value of the items is $50 or less on a first offense, then there is a solid chance that the case could be negotiated down from a misdemeanor to an infraction. This would avoid a criminal conviction and would also avoid a potential probation term and reduced fines.
Also, many counties in California offer theft diversion programs. Under such a program the accused would enter a plea of guilty to the charge and sentencing would be continued for 90 days or so. During that time the defendant would have to successfully complete a theft diversion class and not stay out of trouble until sentencing. If they do so, the case is dismissed before sentencing and the defendant avoids a criminal conviction.
Another potential alternative in a theft case is called a civil compromise. Under this arrangement, the defendant pays the victim a certain amount of money above and beyond what the victim’s loss in the case was and the victim signs a statement indicating they no longer desire prosecution. If the judge accepts the civil compromise, then the criminal proceedings are permanently stayed and the defendant avoids a conviction.
These are just a few of the options available in dealing with a first-time shoplifting case. While you are unlikely to be facing actual jail time in a case like this, a conviction can have a disastrous impact on your present and future employment opportunities and carries a stigma that nobody wants to live with. If you or a loved one is facing theft charges in Southern California, then you should immediately contact the law offices of Wallin & Klarich for a consultation. Call us at 888-280-6839. We’ll be there when you call.