Driving around as I do, I can’t help but notice an increasing number of abandoned shopping carts lying around my neighborhood. My best guess is that people who don’t drive to stores are taking the shopping carts in order to avoid having to carry their heavy bags to their home, to the bus stop, etc.
I find this interesting because California law makes removal of a shopping cart in this way from the premises of the store a misdemeanor. Specifically, it’s California Business and Professions Code sections 22435 and 22435.1 through 22435.8. There are two caveats to this.
The first is that the prohibitions on shopping cart removal under Business and Professions Code sections 22435, et seq only apply if a sign like the one pictured above is affixed to the cart informing users of the laws against removal of said cart. (B&P section 22435.1). The second caveat is that, per B&P section 22435.2, you’re only guilty of a misdemeanor if you remove the cart “with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner or retailer of possession of the cart.” The result is that the mere fact you’ve removed the cart is not enough to make you guilty. You have to remove the cart with a specific intent to deprive the owner of possession, either temporarily or permanently. In other words, guilt comes from proving two elements (removal and intent) as opposed to just removal.
Whether intent can or cannot be proven depends, like everything in the law it seems, on the circumstances of the case.
In the meantime, I try to corral shopping carts I see in my neighborhood and walk them back to the store they came from, if for no other reason than to remove an eyesore.
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