However, there are other, more complicated forms of theft that sometimes give rise to petty theft charges include:
- Theft by trick (for example, changing the price tag on an item in a store so that you can pay less for it),
- Theft byembezzlement in California law – that is, taking something that has been entrusted to you (usually money), and
- Theft byfraud or false pretense (telling a lie in order to persuade someone else to give you their property).
Also, the separate offense of shoplifting–which is defined in Penal Code 459.5 PC–consists of entering a commercial establishment while it is open, with the intent to steal items worth nine hundred fifty ($950) or less.
Here are some examples of activity that can lead to petty theft/shoplifting charges in California:
- Shoplifting DVDs worth a couple hundred dollars;
- “Borrowing” a $500 lawn mower from a neighbor when you have no intention of returning it; and
- Taking a $300 smartphone from a shipment of phones you are delivering for your boss.
Both petty theft and shoplifting are misdemeanors in California law.
The maximum penalties for most first-time petty theft convictions are a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), up to six (6) months in county jail, or both.