This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

Can You Be Charged for Shoplifting After Leaving the Store?

Question from Tom, Can You Be Charged for Shoplifting After Leaving the Store?

Answer from AI:

If you’ve been caught shoplifting from a market in Torrance, California, and an employee took a picture of your face but couldn’t identify you, you might be wondering about the likelihood of facing charges. The situation you described involves several legal considerations, and while specific outcomes can vary, understanding the general legal framework can help clarify potential consequences.

Understanding Shoplifting Charges in California

In California, shoplifting is defined under Penal Code 459.5. This law makes it a crime to enter a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property taken does not exceed $950. Any theft involving property worth more than this amount may be charged under different statutes that address grand theft.

Key Factors That Influence Charging Decisions

Several factors can influence whether you will be charged with shoplifting, including:

  • Evidence of the Act: The presence of photographic evidence can play a role in identifying suspects. However, identification and intent must be clearly established for charges to be pursued.
  • Value of the Stolen Items: The value of the items involved can determine the severity of potential charges.
  • Return of Stolen Property: Returning items may not absolve you of legal consequences, but it could potentially influence the decision-making process of both the store and law enforcement.
  • Store Policy and Actions: The store’s decision to ban you indicates they’ve taken some action, but whether they decide to press charges can depend on their policies and the specifics of the incident.

What Happens Next?

After an incident of shoplifting, several outcomes are possible:

  1. The store may decide to press charges based on the evidence they have, including photographs and any witness statements.
  2. Law enforcement may conduct an investigation if the store reports the incident. This could involve attempting to identify you through the photograph taken.
  3. If identified, you could be contacted by the police for questioning or to issue a citation or arrest, depending on the circumstances and evidence.
  4. If charges are filed, you will be required to appear in court. The severity of the charges (misdemeanor or felony) will depend on the specifics of the incident, including the value of the items and any prior criminal history.

Seeking Legal Advice

Given the complexities involved in criminal law and the potential consequences of a shoplifting charge, it’s strongly recommended to consult with a legal professional who can provide advice tailored to your specific situation. An attorney can help you understand your rights, the legal process, and the best course of action based on the details of your case.

For more information on shoplifting laws in California, you can visit the California Legislative Information website.


While returning the items and being banned from the store are immediate consequences of the incident, the possibility of being charged with shoplifting depends on several factors, including the store’s decision to press charges and the ability of law enforcement to identify and prove the alleged theft. It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of legal action and to seek professional legal advice to navigate the situation effectively.

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