Penal Code §459.5

Commentary

Shoplifting is entering a business during regular business hours with the intent to take property valued at less than $950.

Relevant Statutes

Penal Code §459.5

(a) Notwithstanding Section 459, shoplifting is defined as entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950). Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary. Shoplifting shall be punished as a misdemeanor, except that a person with one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 may be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(b) Any act of shoplifting as defined in subdivision (a) shall be charged as shoplifting. No person who is charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property.

Standard Jury Instruction

The jury will generally be instructed pursuant to CalCrim 1703, which is summarized as follows

The defendant is charged with shoplifting.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant entered a commercial establishment;
2. When the defendant entered the commercial establishment, it was open during regular business hours;
AND
3. When he entered the commercial establishment, he intended to commit theft.

The defendant does not need to have actually committed theft as long as he entered with the intent to do so.

A person enters a structure if some part of his or her body or some object under his or her control] penetrates the area inside the
structure’s outer boundary.

A structure’s outer boundary includes the area inside a window screen.

Special Jury Instructions

The following law may be of benefit in preparing special jury instructions to defend against a shoplifting charge.

If you find that the value of the property taken or intended to be taken is less than $950, you must find the defendant not guilty of shoplifting.
Authority: Penal Code §459.5

The essence of the crime of shoplifting is the specific intent upon entry. If the defendant entered the building without intent to commit a crime, but thereafter formed the intent after his entry was complete, then the crime of shoplifting has not been committed and he is not guilty of that offense.
Authority: People v. Gibson, 107 Cal. App. 76 (1930) describing the intent required for burglary, which is the same intent required for shoplifting.

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