A burglary can be charged with a shoplifting even if the value of the theft is $950 or less and is only a petty theft. Burglary refers to the “mental intent” when you entered the store, not the value of the property taken. Burglary requires “entering” the store with the intent to steal, not deciding to steal after you are already in the store. It is a felony punishable by up to a 3 years prison. That charge is a “wobbler” and could also be charged as a misdemeanor depending on a number of factors. The police officer does not have that discretion, only the District Attorney when they review the case and your background for filing.
Burglary is not charged in most petty theft shoplift cases unless it is clear the person entered with the intent to steal. That intent can be shown in several ways, the easiest is if the defendant admits it to the police officer. Otherwise there are other factors which are considered which can circumstantially show the “entry with intent” like having no money or credit cards with you and carrying an empty shopping bag into a store and filling it with stolen merchandise and leaving. A prior record or history of similar thefts as well as other facts can show the intent sufficient for the D.A. to file the charge. If you have no prior record, usually if it is filed it would be filed as a misdemneanor instead of a felony.
Theft cases can have a huge impact on an individual, including employment, education, occupational licenses and even immigration status. Attorneys Nicholas and William Christoph, San Diego Magazines “Top Lawyers” in San Diego, carefully review every case for possible defenses and mitigating factors which can be used to reduce or dismiss charges and minimize consequences. Call Christoph Law Offices at 760-670-3885 for a free consultation and realistic evaluation of your theft case. They have over 40 years of combined criminal defense experience.