California Petty Theft Laws: Detention and Civil Demands

Unless specifically set forth as grounds for Grand Theft, the Petty Theft laws apply, as follows:

  •  Petty Theft is often referred to as shoplifting; as a general rule it takes place when one obtains property by theft, that involves a value less than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950);
  • A first conviction generally constitutes and is punished as a misdemeanor. Penal Code Section 490 provides for a fine for each violation of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or up to six (6) months in the county jail, or both;
  • The prosecutor (District Attorney or City Attorney) has the discretion to charge the defendant as an infraction if the person has no prior theft or theft-related conviction (Section 490.1);
  • In addition to other civil remedies, the merchant can make a civil demand and collect up to five hundred dollars ($500), plus costs. In addition, the store may collect the retail value of the merchandise;
  • Pursuant to 490.5 (f) (1) of the Penal Code, a merchant may detain a person for a reasonable time to conduct an investigation if the merchant has probable cause to believe the person of interest unlawfully attempted to take or has unlawfully taken merchandise from the premises of the store.
  • A reasonable amount of force not likely to cause great bodily harm may be used if it is necessary and, therefore it becomes, justifiable, to protect oneself and/or to prevent the person who has been detained from fleeing &/or the loss of the merchant’s property;
  • Following the above principles, the merchant may request the person who has been detained to voluntarily surrender the item in question, and if refused, is permitted to conduct a reasonable search to recover the same. This involves and is limited to handbags, packages, shopping bags and/or other property possessed by the detained person; this search does not, however, encompass any clothing worn. Crimes Against Property:

Although a merchant may demand attorney’s fees or threaten to cause harm to a person’s credit, they do not have the power to do so [attorney’s fees are prohibited in such a case, and because there has been no adjudication of money owed, they cannot report someone to a credit bureau]. Also, it may be deemed a violation of State extortion and Federal collection laws for a merchant to threaten criminal &/or civil action

The facts and circumstances differ in one case from another and, therefore, the information in this Blog is not intended as legal advice.

Couple pleads not guilty to child endangerment charges

A couple pleaded not guilty to felony child endangerment charges.

They were accused of leaving their 4-month-old son in a car. His temperature rose to dangerous levels, and he died in a hospital.

Can anyone reconcile a parent’s lifetime guilt as a result of allowing their child to die because they were using narcotics and forgot they left their infant child in the car when they remained inside their residence (perhaps using more drugs), notwithstanding the ever rising and burning temperature in their closed vehicle from the summer heat?  It is despicable and unforgiving.

This type of conduct only underscores the failure in our system to educate individuals at a very young age as well as adults through relentless media Public Announcements that drugs destroy one’s ability to exercise judgment, causing obvious lapses in memory as well as an inability to function in simple daily activities.

Is there a scintilla of evidence the parents are remorseful? The reporter failed to include any such references, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusion(s).



Police are searching for a man that sexually assaulted a woman at Historic Mission in Oceanside

Police are searching for an unknown man who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman on the grounds of a historic mission in Oceanside last month.

According to investigators, the sexual assault happened on Mar. 18 around 3:30 p.m. outside the Mission San Luis Rey on Mission Avenue.

Police say a man grabbed a female victim, fondled her and allegedly attempted to drag her into some nearby bushes. The woman fought back, striking the suspect, and was able to run away.

Three weeks later, police say the suspect is still at large. On Wednesday, officials released a composite sketch of the man.

Investigators describe him as a Hispanic man in his 30s, approximately 6-feet-tall and 200 pounds. He has brown or black shoulder-length hair, a moustache, a large mole on his neck and a tattoo of a snake on the back of his left forearm.

The Oceanside Police Department is asking anyone with information on this case to contact detectives handling the case at (760) 435-4824 or (800) 78-CRIME.

Cops Bust Meth Operation at “Party House”

An illegal drug operation in San Diego has resulted in the arrest of 16 people. San Diego police discovered large amounts of methamphetamine at a location known as a “party house”, according to one neighbor.

The neighbor reported having seen a cluster of people frequenting the area. Prior to this raid, several other individuals were arrested. Those prior arrests led investigators to this City Heights home. All of the suspects were arrested for possession of illegal drugs, including methamphetamine.


• Tattoo Shop Manager Fights for His Life in Robbery Attempt (Sam Spital)

Commentary by San Diego Robbery Defense and Criminal Attorney Samuel Spital:

“On February 4, 2013, NBC Channel 39 reported the manager of Classic Tattoo in El Cajon, a city to the east of San Diego used martial arts to save his life from two robbery suspects who pistol-whipped him at about 2:00 a.m. The manager sustained serious injuries to his head when he was hit several times with a gun. The robbery suspects tried to take money from his pocket and his motorcycle, but the manager said ‘I put him in a guillotine, disarmed him and tried to get him out of the shop [at which point both robbers ran away].’

There were no other details relating to the case, including the type of weapon(s) used by the robbers, nor whether the business had video cameras &/or whether a description of the suspects was provided by the manager. As our economy continues to fall and there continues to be greater unemployment, even businesses that historically have not been targets of crime because they do not maintain large amounts of money or valuables now have to be vigilant. It is clearly worthwhile today for all types of businesses to install Video Surveillance Systems as one of the more common tools to safeguard their operations and property, let alone their own personal safety. Excluding the owner(s) of a business, there is workers’ compensation insurance available for temporary and permanent injuries sustained by employees and which is required by law. Many homeowners are also giving greater consideration to the installation of home security systems, which have become less expensive due to the wide variety being mass produced and sold by big box stores.”

Ex-Border Patrol agent sentenced for theft, child porn (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Criminal Defense Lawyer SAM SPITAL:

“A former Border Patrol Officer convicted of interstate transportation of stolen goods, theft of government property and possession of nearly 400 photos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct was reported by on January 14, 2013. The U.S. District Court Judge sentenced the defendant to 3 years in federal prison and was ordered to register as a sex offender (RSO) on his plea to the theft of night-vision goggles worth approximately $10,000 and a GPS unit worth under $100.

The story did not contain any facts regarding the defendant, his lawyer’s arguments nor position of the defense. Little was revealed as to the social and family history of the defendant nor evidence of mitigation and/or remorse. Accordingly, it is difficult to evaluate the case and offer any thoughts or opinions.”

—Sam Spital

Two men in custody after Del Mar beach drug bust (Sam Spital)

Commentary by Drug Defense Lawyer Sam Spital:

“On November 25, 2012, it was reported in the UT SAN DIEGO online edition that approximately 2000 pounds of marijuana was seized at about 3:45 a.m. in clear view in two trucks at a Del Mar beach parking lot. It is believed the suspects were waiting for others to buy &/or distribute the marijuana, and because it was foggy they did not think anyone would see them.

In what may be a related event, an abandoned boat washed up to the shore. If not part of drug trafficking, it may have been used to smuggle people across the border.

The writer did not elaborate upon any other facts in order to better evaluate a possible defense strategy.”

–Drug Defense Lawyer Sam Spital


Verdict reached but sealed in trial of teen accused in rapes of two girls


‎”On October 26, 2012, the CBS online news reported a 17 year old boy was tried as an adult in the San Diego Superior Court and found guilty of rape, kidnapping and sodomy by force upon two girls who were friends taking a walk in a local park. These horrific and unspeakable crimes were committed in conjunction with a second defendant who faces a separate trial, and no doubt the reason the Judge sealed the verdict pending the outcome of that ongoing trial.

According to the Deputy District Attorney, the two teenagers were smoking marijuana when they saw the two girls, at which point one of the boys held a knife and used threats to force them to a secluded place where they were brutally and repeatedly attacked and subjected to a ‘30- to 40-minute series of sexual assaults that included every imaginable kind of rape.’ The police account reflected the defendant’s admission as well as the following statement: ‘(Expletive) happens… The body is weak when it sees flesh.’

The Defense Lawyer argued her client was not guilty and acted out of ‘impulse;’ he ‘cooperated after his arrest and admitted what he did.’ The article did not report and, therefore it is heart-wrenching there was no evidence of remorse, mitigation &/or recognition of wrongdoing of the savage behavior by the defendant who faces up to 325 years to life in State Prison. The reader is left wondering if either defendant has any redeeming quality having taken away the innocence of two girls who are and will be scared for life.”SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

SDPD captain’s son pleads not guilty to assault, sexual battery charges (Sam Spital)

“The San Diego Police Department Captain’s son, who is 23 years old, was charged with seven counts of misdemeanor assault, sexual battery and vandalism as reported in the Channel 8 CBS online news October 11, 2012. The defendant’s blood alcohol was twice the legal limit for driving.
This should be a lesson that there are unexpected consequences of drinking, including that which may not have been intended &/or characteristic of one’s normal behavior. The defendant is fortunate he did not get into a car and drive into another vehicle and/or pedestrian, causing injury or death to himself or another person.

The defense will likely seek treatment for alcohol abuse and rehabilitation.”

SAM SPITAL, Criminal Lawyer

Ratings and Reviews

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