Any theft offense on your criminal record can be very difficult to overcome in an era where employers, college administrators, and other community members have fast, easy access to that record. Whether you were falsely accused or made a mistake and need help avoiding the most severe consequences, you should speak with an experienced defense lawyer who understands this type of case. You should know that defenses are available, and your attorney can explain what strategies may work for you.
Understanding the Consequences
It’s possible that your shoplifting case may be heard by a jury, and that jury will recommend a sentence if you’re found guilty. The penalties vary for the different types of shoplifting. Here is a brief look at those penalties:
- Petit larceny. Defined as stealing something less than $200 in value, this class 1 misdemeanor will earn both fines and jail time—up to $2,500 and 12 months, respectively.
- Grand larceny. If you take something valued at $200 or more, you’re usually charged with a felony; however, the judge and/or jury can punish grand larceny as a misdemeanor. If your case is a felony, you face 1-20 years in prison.
- Larceny with intent to sell. This charge—meaning you wish to profit from the stolen goods—may also result in up to 20 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
- Concealment. If you purposefully create a distraction or diversion to avoid being caught switching a price tag, for example, that’s concealment—and it may increase your penalty.
- Burglary. If you break and enter into a retailer or other place with intent to take items, you are committing burglary and could be facing a class 2 or 3 felony charge.
It’s also important to remember that, in addition to criminal penalties, a shoplifting offender may also face civil charges to compensate the proprietor for the items if any sale was lost or the item was returned in a poor condition.
A Lawyer May Be Able to Defend You
If you were charged with shoplifting, there are defenses your attorney may be able to use to defend you, including:
- It was an accident. Perhaps the item became stuck on your bag while you walked through crowded racks, you were distracted while talking or texting on the phone, or you forgot you were holding the item when you walked out the door. An honest mistake is just that, and your attorney may be able to use credible witnesses and store security footage to clear your name.
- The loss prevention team behaved inappropriately. If those who detained you at the store used excessive force, said anything inappropriate to you, or made a mistake, this may help your case. Additionally, it’s important to remember that security guards are not police officers and do not have the same rights and privileges—especially with arrests.
- The police made a mistake. Police must follow many rules and protocols, and sometimes it’s possible an officer forgets to read Miranda rights or conducts an illegal search, which can help your case.
- The police report is inaccurate. Certain details and perceptions in a police report may negatively affect your case, and it’s possible to find evidence that may challenge the accuracy of the report.
- The witness statements are inaccurate. If the prosecution’s case relies heavily on what a witness saw or heard, an attorney can work to discredit that testimony by challenging his character or history.
Remember that your attorney may choose to use one, none, or a mix of these defenses, so it’s important to provide him with as much information as possible. He’ll advise you as to whether or not he believes these defenses will work to dismiss or even expunge your charges or if you should consider making a deal.
You Need Skilled Representation
If you’ve recently been accused of shoplifting, it’s critical to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The legal team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi would like to hear about your situation, explain your options, and begin to build a solid case for you. To start a conversation with us, fill out the online contact form on our website today.