Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

I live in California, Age 23 and I was caught shoplifting today. This is my first offense, items added up to be $230 in cell phone accessories. All this so I can find a solution to recover important client data from my smartphone with a broken screen.

I know I have done wrong and I should have just spent the money to repair my screen. It was all in the heat of the moment, with a broken screen, panicing, wanting to save my data , the money and time it will take to fix and replace the phone. I clearly just wasn't thinking at the time and made the worst decision in my life by stealing cellphone cables and a backup battery.

I was caught by two Lost Prevention guys once I step outside the door. They handcuffed me and escorted me to the office where they asked me to face the wall, spread my legs, used a medal detector on me and told me to empty my pockets of all the stolen goods and said they will go easy on me if I am truthful and give everything back. I gave them my full cooperation and gave them everything back. They then detained me for about 2-3 hrs while they fill out a full report and review the cameras footage. They told me they would not call the Police and would let me go as soon as they fill out, file the report with a their LP Home Office as well as paperwork I had to sign at the end. They also took a picture of me with the items I took and warned me never to return to their store or I will be charged with trespassing. While they were almost done writing the report they told me they had to call their LP Home Office to let them know what has happened today. They could not reach their LP Home Office the first attempt. So they continued writing the report in full details. 30 mins later they tried calling their LP Home Office again, no answer. 20 Mins later, the 3rd call went through and it seems the LP Home office was busy wrapping things up for the night. The LP made the report to LP Home Office and said I was free to go once I sign some paperwork. While the LP were pulling out the paperwork the Police showed up! I was so scared! One of the LP guys steped out to talk with the Police while partner stayed in the office to look after me. He told me he and his partner did not call the Police, he said it seems the LP Home Office called them probably because they were busy finishing up and didn't want to deal with a new case this late at night.

The Police came into the office shortly after to question me futhur. He turned on his recording device and set it on the table before the questioning.

He told me I'm not under arrest and just wanted to find out what's going on. He asked for my side of the story, why I did it and if this is my first time shoplifing. I told him the truth about my phone and this is my first time shoplifing. He pretty much threw it back at my face and told me he didn't believe me.

He kept questioning me, asking me what City I was from and why I was in a diffrent city than where I was originally. I answered them truthfully, again it was all for the sake of my phone.

The questioning goes onto asking me If I drove here today, ofcouse I am not going to lie while he has my drivers license in his hand; it would probably make the situation worst.

He ask me if his partner could search my car to see if I had any other stolen merchandise or drugs. At this point it seems they are harassing me and taking advantage of the situation.

*I told them no, I do not have any stolen merchandise or drugs and I do not feel comfortable or consent them to search my car.

The Officer replied - Why not? You have nothing to worry about if you're telling the truth. It seems you've got something to hide then. Is there something you're not telling us?

*I replied - No, I have nothing to hide, I just feel confortable you going through my car ( which is also my parents car since their name is on it as well ) and end up scratching and tearing up my car.

*The Officer replied - *chuckled* We're police officers; We don't do that kind of thing. We just want make sure you're telling the truth.

*At this point I thought to myself there's no point in resisting him. Since the Officer is in front of me he could easily arrest me and get a warrent issued to search my car making matters worst; So *I Replied - Alright, I then pulled out my keys slowly and gave it to the officer.

His Partner then step out of the office to find & search my car in the parking lot.

While we were waiting for his Partner to return from my car the Officer decided to asked me to stand up and spread my legs. He asked if I had anything else in my pockets that may have been stolen or could harm/poke him. I told him no, nothing stolen or harmful. He then began to pat me down without asking me. While he was patting me down I then realize that might still have my gfs 3-4" old fashion Box cutter from her work because the safety cap was lost, she put tape at the top of the opening so the blade wouldnt accidentally slide out but just to be safe she didn't want to carry at work and I had remeber putting it in my inner jacket pocket but i wasn't 100% since i also had a small Stack of Business cards, receipts from other purchases. It's been such a long day and with so much going on in my mind and the questioning my memory was a bit fuzzy. It all happen so quick, by the time I could even say anything the officer already started pulling stuff out of my pocket. He found the box cutter along with the business cards and receipts. I honestly told them I really didn't remeber having it and that I would carry stuff for my gf time to time. He ofcourse didn't believe me and said that I most likely brought it to open up packages and steal stuff.

I honestly didn't even have the intention of doing that. Majority of the items I took were all damanged and opened packaged items. They said alright, if they review the video and catch me using the box cutter they would consider that a felony and issue and arrest for me. I know I didn't use it so I have nothing to worry about at this point. However, what I'm worry about is if they can use that against me by considering it as a cocealed weapon because the TOOK it away from me and never gave it back.

The Officer said to me, you know you're under arrest now right? Stealing is a mistomeaner and the box cutter could be a felony.

The Officers Partner returned to the office and everything checked out fine. ( It was dark but the car looked fine aside from a messy trunk )

I was then asked to sign two different forms. I was acknowledging that I would receive a Civil Demand letter?? from a Law Office sometime in the future and a form warning me never to return to their store or I will be charged with trespassing. They told me before that they were not going to take any further action beyond banning me from their store and for me to pay a civil demand fee that will be sent to me in a future notice. However, now that the Police is here I'm not too sure what is going to happen.

Before letting me go the Police Officer wrote me a ticket for "Petty Theft - mistermeaner" and also I have a certain time period listed on my ticket that I must go to the Police Department for "BOOKING" for my figerprints and photo to be taken.

Please help me!!! I'm so scared I don't know what to do. I don't want to go to jail having my gf and whole family find out about this. I'm also trying to apply for a new job and I don't want this to be on my permanent record. My life would be ruined if this were to happen! This is my first offence, nothing like this has ever happen to me before what should I do? What will happen to me? I know I have done wrong but Is there anything I can do or say to hopefully not make matters worst than it already is?

Asked on 9/10/13, 7:07 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Zadik Shapiro Law Offices of C. Zadik Shapiro

You need a lawyer. You've raised numerous issues some of which seem to be violations of the Fourth Amendment. There may be ways to keep it off your record and you are unlikely to go to jail.

Also you should not be discussing th case with anyone other than privately with an attorney. Do not discuss the facts of the case on line.

Good Luck

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Answered on 9/11/13, 11:56 am

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