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Is there a defense against shoplifting if it was accidental? (Penal Code 484)

When a person is arrested or giving a citation for Riverside petty theft they need to realize this is a serious criminal offense. This is considered a crime of “moral turpitude”. If you are found guilty of this crime, it will remain on your permanent record. If you apply for a job after being convicted of a theft crime it is very unlikely anyone will want to hire you in these difficult economic times. When an employer can choose between 50 qualified applicants why would they select someone who was convicted of theft?
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Our law firm has successfully won dismissals of many petty theft cases where our client’s legal defense was that they did not “intend” to steal the item because it was an “accident”. The prosecution must prove that at the time the accused left the store they had the specific intent to steal the item in order to obtain a conviction. If the jury believes that in fact your conduct was “accidental” in nature then the chances of you being found not guilty are high. In some cases we can convince the District Attorney to drop the charges when we present our defense to them prior to the trial commencing.

However, it is not enough to merely say it was “an accident”. The evidence must support your legal position. For example if you were with your baby and the baby was in a stroller and you inadvertently placed an item in the top of the stroller and you purchased many other items but did not pay for this one item, you can argue that it was an “accident” as to that one item, in that you were distracted from having to tend to your baby.

Another example of a successful “accidental taking” in a theft case, is when a person enters a store to shop and while shopping with a shopping cart receives a cell phone call and they cannot get reception within the store and so they temporarily wheel the shopping cart outside of the store while speaking on the phone to complete the phone call and they are stopped by security as they are speaking on the phone. We have been successful in these cases to argue that our client did not intend to steal the item but only left the store to be able to complete the phone call and was planning to return to the store to continue to shop and pay for the items in the shopping cart.

It is important to remember that no person can have brain surgery done on them to “really know” for sure what was in their mind when they left the store with the merchandise. This is why security personnel and law enforcement are trained to do all they can to have the person arrested admit that they intended to steal when they are being questioned. If the police obtain such an admission then it makes it very difficult for the client to prevail.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for theft, it is imperative you contact Wallin & Klarich. Hiring an experienced Orange County criminal defense law firm is the best way to ensure you keep your freedom. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been helping people facing theft charges for over 30 years. We have offices in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange County. Call us today at 888-280-6839 for a consultation or fill out our intake form for immediate assistance.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.