Shoplifting is defined as the willful concealment of retail merchandise. It is not limited to taking an item out of the store without paying for it, which is the most common form of shoplifting. Some people switch tags to pay less for a product than its actual price.
It seems ingenious, but it's not. Tag switching is still a form of shoplifting and is illegal. You can go to prison for it.
California shoplifting laws
A law passed in 2014 decriminalized shoplifting for items worth $950 and below. However, it does not mean that you get a free pass. Decriminalization only reduces the criminal classification of the offense — from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Shoplifting items below $950 is a misdemeanor, punishable with up to six months in jail or a fine of $1,000. However, there are instances where shoplifting would be considered a felony even if the items fall below the $950 tag.
For instance, if the theft is part of an organized retail theft ring intending to resell the stolen goods, it is considered a felony. Similarly, previous convictions of certain crimes can lead to felony charges if you are arrested for shoplifting.
Shoplifting items above $950 may attract a grand theft charge where the stakes are much higher. You could be jailed for a considerable period, depending on the nature of your offense.
Have you been charged with shoplifting?
You should take shoplifting charges seriously, whether it was a big misunderstanding, an accident or your first offense. You may end up in prison or with a criminal record which can affect your quality of life years down the line.
A good understanding of the nature of your charges and the possible defenses that may work in your favor is necessary for a desirable outcome of your case.