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Name: In re J.L.
Case #: B261634
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 12/04/2015

Theft of a cell phone from a school locker does not qualify as shoplifting (Pen. Code, § 459.5, added by Prop. 47). While at school, J.L. and another student picked a lock on a third student’s locker using a paperclip and took a cell phone they found inside. J.L. admitted a burglary (Pen. Code, § 459) allegation in a juvenile delinquency petition. The juvenile court declared the burglary to be a felony and placed J.L. on probation. After Proposition 47 passed, J.L. filed a petition to reduce his burglary offense to misdemeanor shoplifting. The court denied his petition, reasoning that shoplifting required a theft from a commercial establishment and a school was not a commercial establishment. J.L. appealed. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 47 created the new offense of misdemeanor shoplifting, which is defined as entering a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed $950. (Pen. Code, § 459.5.) Under Proposition 47, a defendant can petition to reduce his felony burglary conviction to misdemeanor shoplifting provided it would have been misdemeanor shoplifting had Proposition 47 been in existence at the time he committed the offense. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18.) J.L.’s burglary conviction does not meet the criteria for shoplifting because a public high school is not a commercial establishment. Section 459.5 does not define “commercial establishment,” but “[g]iving the term its commonsense meaning, commercial establishment is one that is primarily engaged in commerce, that is, the buying and selling of goods or services.” That understanding accords with the dictionary definitions and other legal sources. A public high school is not an establishment primarily engaged in the sale of goods and services; rather, it is an establishment dedicated to the education of students.