Pasadena Petty Theft Defense Attorney

The crime of petty theft, codified in California Penal Codes section 484, 487, 488, & 490.2, which includes “shoplifting,” is being taken more seriously by prosecutors in Pasadena and Los Angeles than ever before.  Financial loss to the stores has caused a large inflation in prices that must be shouldered by the average consumer, so local prosecutors are filing criminal charges even when the amount of the theft is small. Petty theft is the most common of crime in the United States.

Pasadena Criminal Lawyer Ann Gottesman is sensitive to the emotional difficulties that her clients experience when faced with criminal charges of petty theft in the Los Angeles and Pasadena Courts.  Jobs, careers, reputations and even a client’s freedom, hang in the balance in any misdemeanor or felony case.

Good people with families and careers sometimes experience a bout of bad judgement and can find themselves in one of the most frightening and embarrassing moments of their lives. I understand that representing someone who was arrested or charged with petty theft involves more than technical legal expertise.  It requires empathy, patience and compassion. I strive to help my clients achieve the best possible results in their shoplifting or petty theft case, with the primary goal of seeking a dismissal of the charge whenever possible.”  Ann

Under Penal Code section 484, 488, and 490.2, petty theft refers to stealing property or goods that are valued at $950 or less. This is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum of six months in the county jail and a fine. However, if grand theft charges are filed under PC 487, which involves the stealing of goods over $950, the District Attorney will usually file felony charges, which exposes the accused to a maximum of three years in county jail.


  • If a woman enters a department store intending to purchase a dress but while in the dressing room decides to switch the tag of a less expensive dress and affix it to a more expensive dress in an attempt to pay less for the expensive dress, she can be charged with petty theft. Even though the woman purchases the dress with the wrong tag on it and the cashier does not mention anything about the tag being wrong, the woman is still guilty of petty theft and the difference in the true price of the dress and the price paid would be the value of the stolen goods.
  • A man enters a hardware store and selects several tools which he places in his shopping cart. The man takes one tool and conceals it in his back pocket. He pays for all the tools except for the one concealed in his pocket. After exiting the store he is approached by security and accused of shoplifting. If the prosecution can prove the man intended to steal the tool in his pocket, he could be convicted of shoplifting.
  • Sally and Jennifer both go to Macys to shop for new clothes. Both women shop together for a period of time.  Sally finds a nice top and skirt and tells Jennifer she will meet her at the front of the store in 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Jennifer selects several items of clothing and tries them on in the fitting room. She takes a skirt and a top and rips off the tags and places both items in her purse.  These items have a total retail value of $925. Sally has no idea that Jennifer is stealing anything.  Jennifer exits the fitting room with the other items and purchases those items. When both women leave the store together, security stops both and escorts them back to the store, accusing both women of stealing.  While Jennifer has committed petty theft or shoplifting, Sally is innocent because she had no knowledge her friend was going to steal and did not assist or aid her in anyway.


California voters recently passed Proposition 47 (November, 2014), which has made many theft crimes that used to be felonies, now misdemeanors.  For example, it used to be that if you had a previous conviction for petty theft and then got arrested for a second petty theft or other theft related offenses, the prosecutor could charge you under Penal Code 666 with a felony even though the current offense involved goods valued under $400.  Now a second petty theft offense $950 or less can only be filed as a misdemeanor (with some exceptions).  Prop 47 also lowered several common drug possession charges to misdemeanors when once they were straight felonies. Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Ann Gottesman can review your charges and criminal record and determine if Prop 47 applies to your case.


In addition to Proposition 47, a pilot program is now in place that allows Judges to dismiss many types of first offense misdemeanors (no priors within 10 years, and some exceptions apply).  This is a great option for people charged with petty theft or other misdemeanor theft crimes in Los Angeles or Pasadena, California, because the accused is given the opportunity to earn a full dismissal of the charges.   Typically, the judge will require the accused to complete some counseling or community service to earn the dismissal. After six months to a year, if the defendant has not reoffended and has completed the court’s requirements, the guilty plea will be withdrawn, a not guilty plea entered, and the charge dismissed. 


If the police believe the accused entered a business with the intent to steal, commercial burglary charges used to be filed under Penal Code 459, but under Proposition 47, Penal Code section 459.5 now state that the charges must be filed as a misdemeanor if the value of the goods do not exceed $950 and if the theft occurred during a time when the business was open.  And of course, under the Deferred Entry of Judgment Pilot Program under Penal Code section 1001.94 through 1001.99, a first offense misdemeanor can be dismissed by the Judge if the accused is offered the opportunity for diversion.


Lack of Intent: Since theft crimes require specific intent, a person would not be guilty of shoplifting if he or she unwittingly left a store and forgot to pay for the items. Of course the police may arrest the shopper not believing it was an accident, but in Court, the prosecutor would have to prove the accused intended to leave the store without paying for the items in order to obtain a conviction. This intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


If you have been charged with the crime shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft, fraud, receiving stolen property, identity theft, burglary or any other type of theft crime, let the Law Office of Ann Gottesman review your case and provide you with a free and confidential consultation.  Ann is dedicated to her clients and personally handles each case, unlike larger firms, where often times, the attorney you meet and hire is not the one fighting for you in court.

            “If you or someone you love has been charged with a theft crime in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to contact me at any time, seven days a week. You do not need to go through this alone, and nor should you. There may be defenses or legal options that you may not even be aware of.  I am here to fight for you and stand by you through this difficult time. Call me for a FREE Consultation to discuss your criminal case.” Ann