Petty theft has two levels in California. The first level involves taking property valued at $50 or less. A person would be charged with an infraction and could be punished with a $250 fine in this case.
The second level involves taking the property that is valued no more than $950. This would be a misdemeanor. A person could serve up to 6 months in jail and pay a fine up to $1000 for shoplifting under this level if they are a first time offender. Here is the law:
Universal Citation: CA Penal Code § 490.2 (2013)
(a) Notwithstanding Section 487 or any other provision of law defining grand theft, obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) shall be considered petty theft and shall be punished as a misdemeanor, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 if that person has 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.
In order to charge a person, the authorities need evidence that the person stole the property such as a witness seeing it happen or a camera recording it. A record of the license plate without other evidence is not enough. If they find the stolen property on the person and the person has no receipt plus the record of the license plate, they may have enough evidence to charge someone.
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