Shoplifting is defined as the willful theft of merchandise from a retail establishment, and is considered a form of larceny. Depending on the value of the merchandise, criminal charges range from shoplifting to grand theft in the first degree. If you have been charged with shoplifting, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine what the penalties and fines are in your state, and the type of defenses that are most suitable for your situation.
Penalties And Fines Associated With Shoplifting
First and foremost, you must understand that the value of the merchandise will affect the type of charges that you are facing, but the laws differ from state to state. It is crucial that you fully understand the type of charges that are being laid against you and the penalties and fines that you will be facing if you are convicted.
For example, shoplifting merchandise with a total value of $1,000 or less in Idaho is considered as shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor, and is punishable with fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. If the combined value of the merchandise exceeds $1,000, you will be charged with grand theft, which is a felony. You may face fines of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years of imprisonment. On the other hand, theft of any merchandise valued between $300 and $20,000 in Florida qualifies as grand theft in the third degree, and can be penalized with fines of up to $5,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment.
As you can see, the type of charges that are laid based on the value of the merchandise will vary from state to state, as well as the severity of the penalties and fines. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney may use one of the following 2 defenses.
Defense #1: Challenging The Alleged Act
Although shoplifting laws will vary from state to state, the general gist includes two elements. Both of these elements must be present. They include:
- the intentional concealment or possession of a merchandise; and,
- the intention to permanently deprive the store without paying for the merchandise.
Your criminal defense attorney may argue that you did not intend to shoplift. For example, you may have not even realized that you were in possession of the merchandise when you left the retail establishment. If you did not intentionally try to steal the merchandise, you could be exonerated from the charges.
Defense #2: Challenging The Credibility Of Witnesses
Most shoplifting cases involve the testimony of witnesses that saw the crime happen, especially if there is no video evidence. If your case relies solely on witness testimonies, your criminal defense attorneys will want to dive deep into the credibility of all of the witnesses that are taking the stand. For example, do they have a motive for being there? Do they have a criminal record that may affect their credibility?
Negotiating A Deal
If worst comes to worst, the criminal defense attorney will work towards negotiating a deal. Your attorney can negotiate directly with the store owner to avoid a shoplifting prosecution altogether, although you will be responsible for compensating the store owner for his or her time. In addition, your attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor in hopes of reducing the charges or even getting them expunged.
If you have been charged with shoplifting or grand theft, you may be facing some severe penalties and fines. Don't take any chances, and speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can in order to determine what approach may be best for your situation.