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California Penal Code Section 490.5

Legal Research Home > California Laws > Penal Code > California Penal Code Section 490.5

490.5.  (a) Upon a first conviction for petty theft involving
merchandise taken from a merchant's premises or a book or other
library materials taken from a library facility, a person shall be
punished by a mandatory fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50) and
not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each such violation;
and may also be punished by imprisonment in the county jail, not
exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.
   (b) When an unemancipated minor's willful conduct would constitute
petty theft involving merchandise taken from a merchant's premises
or a book or other library materials taken from a library facility,
any merchant or library facility who has been injured by that conduct
may bring a civil action against the parent or legal guardian having
control and custody of the minor. For the purposes of those actions
the misconduct of the unemancipated minor shall be imputed to the
parent or legal guardian having control and custody of the minor. The
parent or legal guardian having control or custody of an
unemancipated minor whose conduct violates this subdivision shall be
jointly and severally liable with the minor to a merchant or to a
library facility for damages of not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor
more than five hundred dollars ($500), plus costs. In addition to
the foregoing damages, the parent or legal guardian shall be jointly
and severally liable with the minor to the merchant for the retail
value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in a merchantable
condition, or to a library facility for the fair market value of its
book or other library materials. Recovery of these damages may be had
in addition to, and is not limited by, any other provision of law
which limits the liability of a parent or legal guardian for the
tortious conduct of a minor. An action for recovery of damages,
pursuant to this subdivision, may be brought in small claims court if
the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of that
court, or in any other appropriate court; however, total damages,
including the value of the merchandise or book or other library
materials, shall not exceed five hundred dollars ($500) for each
action brought under this section.
   The provisions of this subdivision are in addition to other civil
remedies and do not limit merchants or other persons to elect to
pursue other civil remedies, except that the provisions of Section
1714.1 of the Civil Code shall not apply herein.
   (c) When an adult or emancipated minor has unlawfully taken
merchandise from a merchant's premises, or a book or other library
materials from a library facility, the adult or emancipated minor
shall be liable to the merchant or library facility for damages of
not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars
($500), plus costs. In addition to the foregoing damages, the adult
or emancipated minor shall be liable to the merchant for the retail
value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in merchantable
condition, or to a library facility for the fair market value of its
book or other library materials. An action for recovery of damages,
pursuant to this subdivision, may be brought in small claims court if
the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of such
court, or in any other appropriate court. The provisions of this
subdivision are in addition to other civil remedies and do not limit
merchants or other persons to elect to pursue other civil remedies.
   (d) In lieu of the fines prescribed by subdivision (a), any person
may be required to perform public services designated by the court,
provided that in no event shall any such person be required to
perform less than the number of hours of such public service
necessary to satisfy the fine assessed by the court as provided by
subdivision (a) at the minimum wage prevailing in the state at the
time of sentencing.
   (e) All fines collected under this section shall be collected and
distributed in accordance with Sections 1463 and 1463.1 of the Penal
Code; provided, however, that a county may, by a majority vote of the
members of its board of supervisors, allocate any amount up to, but
not exceeding 50 percent of such fines to the county superintendent
of schools for allocation to local school districts. The fines
allocated shall be administered by the county superintendent of
schools to finance public school programs, which provide counseling
or other educational services designed to discourage shoplifting,
theft, and burglary. Subject to rules and regulations as may be
adopted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, each county
superintendent of schools shall allocate such funds to school
districts within the county which submit project applications
designed to further the educational purposes of this section. The
costs of administration of this section by each county superintendent
of schools shall be paid from the funds allocated to the county
superintendent of schools.
   (f) (1) A merchant may detain a person for a reasonable time for
the purpose of conducting an investigation in a reasonable manner
whenever the merchant has probable cause to believe the person to be
detained is attempting to unlawfully take or has unlawfully taken
merchandise from the merchant's premises.
   A theater owner may detain a person for a reasonable time for the
purpose of conducting an investigation in a reasonable manner
whenever the theater owner has probable cause to believe the person
to be detained is attempting to operate a video recording device
within the premises of a motion picture theater without the authority
of the owner of the theater.
   A person employed by a library facility may detain a person for a
reasonable time for the purpose of conducting an investigation in a
reasonable manner whenever the person employed by a library facility
has probable cause to believe the person to be detained is attempting
to unlawfully remove or has unlawfully removed books or library
materials from the premises of the library facility.
   (2) In making the detention a merchant, theater owner, or a person
employed by a library facility may use a reasonable amount of
nondeadly force necessary to protect himself or herself and to
prevent escape of the person detained or the loss of tangible or
intangible property.
   (3) During the period of detention any items which a merchant or
theater owner, or any items which a person employed by a library
facility has probable cause to believe are unlawfully taken from the
premises of the merchant or library facility, or recorded on theater
premises, and which are in plain view may be examined by the
merchant, theater owner, or person employed by a library facility for
the purposes of ascertaining the ownership thereof.
   (4) A merchant, theater owner, a person employed by a library
facility, or an agent thereof, having probable cause to believe the
person detained was attempting to unlawfully take or has taken any
item from the premises, or was attempting to operate a video
recording device within the premises of a motion picture theater
without the authority of the owner of the theater, may request the
person detained to voluntarily surrender the item or recording.
Should the person detained refuse to surrender the recording or item
of which there is probable cause to believe has been recorded on or
unlawfully taken from the premises, or attempted to be recorded or
unlawfully taken from the premises, a limited and reasonable search
may be conducted by those authorized to make the detention in order
to recover the item. Only packages, shopping bags, handbags or other
property in the immediate possession of the person detained, but not
including any clothing worn by the person, may be searched pursuant
to this subdivision. Upon surrender or discovery of the item, the
person detained may also be requested, but may not be required, to
provide adequate proof of his or her true identity.
   (5) If any person admitted to a theater in which a motion picture
is to be or is being exhibited, refuses or fails to give or surrender
possession or to cease operation of any video recording device that
the person has brought into or attempts to bring into that theater,
then a theater owner shall have the right to refuse admission to that
person or request that the person leave the premises and shall
thereupon offer to refund and, unless that offer is refused, refund
to that person the price paid by that person for admission to that
theater. If the person thereafter refuses to leave the theater or
cease operation of the video recording device, then the person shall
be deemed to be intentionally interfering with and obstructing those
attempting to carry on a lawful business within the meaning of
Section 602.1.
   (6) A peace officer who accepts custody of a person arrested for
an offense contained in this section may, subsequent to the arrest,
search the person arrested and his or her immediate possessions for
any item or items alleged to have been taken.
   (7) In any civil action brought by any person resulting from a
detention or arrest by a merchant, it shall be a defense to such
action that the merchant detaining or arresting such person had
probable cause to believe that the person had stolen or attempted to
steal merchandise and that the merchant acted reasonably under all
the circumstances.
   In any civil action brought by any person resulting from a
detention or arrest by a theater owner or person employed by a
library facility, it shall be a defense to that action that the
theater owner or person employed by a library facility detaining or
arresting that person had probable cause to believe that the person
was attempting to operate a video recording device within the
premises of a motion picture theater without the authority of the
owner of the theater or had stolen or attempted to steal books or
library materials and that the person employed by a library facility
acted reasonably under all the circumstances.
   (g) As used in this section:
   (1) "Merchandise" means any personal property, capable of manual
delivery, displayed, held or offered for retail sale by a merchant.
   (2) "Merchant" means an owner or operator, and the agent,
consignee, employee, lessee, or officer of an owner or operator, of
any premises used for the retail purchase or sale of any personal
property capable of manual delivery.
   (3) "Theater owner" means an owner or operator, and the agent,
employee, consignee, lessee, or officer of an owner or operator, of
any premises used for the exhibition or performance of motion
pictures to the general public.
   (4) The terms "book or other library materials" include any book,
plate, picture, photograph, engraving, painting, drawing, map,
newspaper, magazine, pamphlet, broadside, manuscript, document,
letter, public record, microform, sound recording, audiovisual
material in any format, magnetic or other tape, electronic
data-processing record, artifact, or other documentary, written or
printed material regardless of physical form or characteristics, or
any part thereof, belonging to, on loan to, or otherwise in the
custody of a library facility.
   (5) The term "library facility" includes any public library; any
library of an educational, historical or eleemosynary institution,
organization or society; any museum; any repository of public
records.
   (h) Any library facility shall post at its entrance and exit a
conspicuous sign to read as follows:

   "IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE THEFT OF BOOKS AND LIBRARY MATERIALS,
STATE LAW AUTHORIZES THE DETENTION FOR A REASONABLE PERIOD OF ANY
PERSON USING THESE FACILITIES SUSPECTED OF COMMITTING "LIBRARY THEFT"
(PENAL CODE SECTION 490.5)."

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Last modified: March 17, 2014