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When Does Shoplifting Become Burglary?

 Posted on August 24, 2021 in Criminal Defense

CA defense lawyerIf you go into a store in the state of California, steal something, and get arrested, you could be charged with either shoplifting or burglary. What you are charged with, though, depends on what elements of the crime the investigating officer can prove. In California, the crime could be either a misdemeanor or felony. So, when does shoplifting become a burglary? And, when does a burglary become a felony?

Shoplifting vs Burglary

According to the California Penal Code, there are two elements to the crime of shoplifting. The first is that you must enter a commercial business during normal hours of operation with the intent to steal something. In other words, you had to plan to steal something before you entered the store. The other element is that the value of the property you take cannot cost more than $950.

If you deviate from that definition, such as steal property valued at more than $950 or enter the store before it opens or after it closes, you could be charged with burglary. However, under state law, you cannot be charged with both shoplifting and burglary for the same theft.

California law lists shoplifting as a misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you could be punished with a jail sentence of up to six months and a $1,000 fine. If you have a criminal history and convictions on your record, you could be charged with a felony shoplifting and receive a punishment of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


You commit burglary whenever you enter a place that is not yours with the intention of taking something or committing a felonious act. Although the key element is the “entering," in general, there are two types of burglary. The first is when you enter a dwelling, such as a person’s home or apartment, and the other is when you enter a place other than a residence like a business.

If you burglarize a residence, you could be charged with a first-degree felony and you could face up to six years in prison. If you burglarize a business, you could face either a misdemeanor charge or a second-degree felony. However, the law only allows misdemeanor burglary in “unusual cases.”

Contact a Santa Clara County Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with shoplifting, burglary, or another property crime, contact an experienced California criminal defense lawyer. With more than a decade of practicing law, attorney Cory Fuller knows the ins and outs of property crime. Call the Fuller Law Firm today at 408-234-7563 for a free consultation.




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