Will I be charged or not? Is it petty theft or burglary? This is a first time offense, no criminal record of any kind.

Asked about 5 years ago - San Bernardino, CA

I purchased something from a store, took off the tags at home, & put the tags on a shirt I already had at home. I returned the shirt from home as the "new" shirt I had purchased for a cash refund, about $50. Apparently, this was caught on video & a police officer shows up at my house a few months later asking odd questions. He said that the store had someone on video returning items to a credit card account & asked whether I had an account at the store (I do not). He asked whether I had lost my wallet recently, which I had. He said that he thought someone was using my information fradulently & that he would contact the store and the DA to see what they wanted to do. He then left. So now what? He didn't arrest me & he prob thinks I'm an identity theft victim, altho I did steal.

Additional information

The cop never asked me outright whether or not it was me on video, only questions about whether I shopped there, and if I was there on two specific dates. I answered him truthfully - I did shop there on occasion & I couldn't recall whether I was there on the dates in question. He is the one who brought up the lost wallet & turned it into an identity theft discussion. He left without leaving me any information, other than to tell me that he would call the store & let the DA know what he had discussed with me. Before he left, I asked him if there was anything I needed to do, and he replied, "keep an eye on your credit." And he left. Should I assume that nothing is going to happen, or should I still worry?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Joseph Briscoe Dane

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Based on what you wrote, yes, you could be charged with petty theft and second degree burglary for your actions.

    You (and I) don't know the entire extent of the investigation that is or was ongoing, but from the comments the officer made, it seems like they cannot identify you as the person who did the fraudulent return. Either that or they were just trying to get a statement from you in light of all the evidence they already had.

    The statute of limitations on a misdemeanor is one year - you could face charges any time within that time frame for the misdemeanor. Technically the second degree burglary (entering with the intent to commit a theft - in your case via the fraudulent return) is a "wobbler" in California and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony has a three year statute of limitations.

    I'd suggest you stop talking about this and hope & pray they don't file charges.

  2. Jeffrey Tyson Hammerschmidt

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . A commercial burglary is a charge that can be either a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, or a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. Commercial burglary is entering a business with the intent to commit a crime, such as theft or fraud. You may be charged with this crime, or with petty theft.
    If you provide false information to a police officer, you could also be charged with making a false police report. This could occur if you lead the police to believe that you are an identity theft victim when you are not.
    I'd suggest hiring a criminal defense attorney, who can assist you in handling the matter from here.

  3. Howard Woodley Bailey

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Respectfully, there is no way to predict whether you are going to charged. I suggest that since you do have some exposure based on your facts, that you consult directly with a criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice law in CA before anything does occur, so you will understand the potential consequences of the so-called investigation. When you are having the consultation, the lawyer can explain to you the reason why this is a theft-related charge, and not a burglary charge. Good luck.

    DISCLAIMER
    This answer is provided solely for informational purposes, for you to use as a starting point when speaking directly with a lawyer in your State. I do not practice law in your State, and this answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising. I urge you to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice law in your State before you make any decisions about this case.

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