The easiest way to avoid the consequences of shoplifting is not to engage in this activity. But if you are reading this post, it is safe to assume that we are past that point.
The bad news about shoplifting consequences is that they are severe. Under Arizona law, shoplifting up to $1,000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction could mean six months in jail, three years’ probation, a $2,500 fine, and/or an 84 percent surcharge; meaning that you will pay back up to 84% of the value of the stolen items. That’s a very stiff penalty for a pack of chewing gum. Shoplifting between $1,000 and $2,000 is a Class 6 felony (up to two years in prison). The penalties are higher in some other cases, such as shoplifting a firearm.
The good news is that when you are released on bond you can work with an attorney to build a defense to address these consequences. Shoplifting is a complex crime, which means various legal defenses are available. These defenses are easier to establish if the defendant worked with Sanctuary Bail Bonds (bail bondsman near me) for bond release and is not in jail before trial. Even in “slam-dunk” guilty cases, some form of pretrial diversion is usually available. Consulting with your Sanctuary Bail Bonds agent and/or attorney will shed light on possible options.
What the Law Says
In a nutshell, shoplifting is knowingly taking property with the intent to deprive the owner of the full use and/or value of that property. Knowingly usually means not accidentally, and intentionally usually means with malice; in other words, you never intended to pay for the item. The law sets out five different types of shoplifting:
- Removing the merchandise from the store without paying for it,
- Charging merchandise to a fictitious person or to another person without his/her knowledge (e.g. “Bill will pay for this later” when there is no Bill or Bill knows nothing about the arrangement),
- Transferring merchandise from one place to another, like from the regular price area to the discount bin,
- Concealing merchandise in any way while in the store, and
- Altering the price tag in any way so as to pay less at the register.
That last bullet also includes a common shoplifting scam between a shopper and cashier. The shopper comes to the checkout line with a laptop and a tube of toothpaste, the cashier rings the toothpaste but not the laptop, and the shopper walks out. Under-ringing merchandise at a self-checkout line is roughly the same thing.
Prosecutors usually have a hard time proving intent in these cases. In some circumstances, there is a presumption of intent to permanently deprive. But in most cases, this difficulty gives rise to a number of defenses.
Shoplifting Charges After Leaving the Store and Other Defenses
Many people believe that shoplifting charges will not hold up in court unless a Loss Prevention Officer (LPO) lets the person leave the store. That’s partially true. If loss prevention officers intervene too early, the defendant could say that s/he intended to pay for the item. Since the prosecutor has the burden of proof, this defense is often effective, unless the shoplifting case is one of the presumed-intent cases.
Loss prevention officers have limited powers, but in some cases, they may act as if having the same authority as a peace officer. LPOs have only limited power to detain people. If they overreach, people could feel pressured into confessing, and that confession could be inadmissible in court. These limitations can sometimes cause lines to be blurred and confusion in the process.
On a related note, many shoplifting cases rely on video evidence. Many times, this equipment is legally insufficient in court. Perhaps the images are not time/date stamped properly or possibly the equipment itself was not properly maintained. Both of which may come into question if used in a defense.
Finally, shoplifting cases are among the most common criminal cases to have variance problems. The allegations in the pleadings, which is usually the information and complaint, must match the evidence presented at trial. If there is a fatal variance, a judge might throw the case out of court.
The owner’s name is a good example. Typically, the pleadings must state the owner’s name. In this context, an “owner” is anyone with a superior right of possession. So, an owner could be an LPO or a cashier, and the charging documents usually name the LPO.
But since the trial may not take place for several months, the LPO may be long gone and have taken another job or simply left by the time evidence is presented.
Assume the charging documents name LPO “Andrea”, who filed the report, as the item’s owner. When prosecutors try to subpoena “Andrea”, they learn she has moved to Texas. So, the store sends LPO “Jose” to provide the needed testimony. If prosecutors amend the charging documents accordingly, there is usually no problem. But if they do not change the name from “Andrea” to “Jose”, there could be a fatal variance. Details count in this situation.
Shoplifting is a crime of moral turpitude (CMT). CMT’s have significant employment, immigration, and other consequences, for the person convicted and sometimes show up for many years after the conviction. So, it is important to avoid a conviction if at all possible.
Fortunately, there may be several defense options available that may help you reach your goal without the risk of a trial. Consulting with your defense attorney will help you explore the options.
Most jurisdictions offer pretrial diversion to first-time offenders who are charged with shoplifting. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, the store recovered the stolen merchandise. Program requirements vary, but they usually include:
- Attending a life skills or anti-theft class,
- Performing a few hours of community service, and
- Staying out of trouble with the law.
If the defendant completes all program requirements within the allotted time, which is usually about a month, prosecutors may dismiss the charges.
Setting the case for trial might be an option as well. As hinted above, shoplifting trials are very time-consuming for prosecutors. They require lots of subpoenas and paperwork. Additionally, there is not much of a reward at the end. A very small number of Judges convict shoplifters and sentence them to jail time.
So, rather than go to all that trouble, many prosecutors may voluntarily dismiss the case, or at least reduce charges to a lesser offense.
Sanctuary Bail Bonds (Phoenix bail bonds) is an excellent source of information if you have more questions about the benefits and process of securing a pretrial release if you or a loved one has been arrested for shoplifting or for any other charges throughout the state of Arizona. Their fast, friendly, professional, and discreet bail bond services. You are not alone. Call us 24/7 any day of the year for our award-winning bonding services at (602) 224-5247 or (602) BAIL 247. Click here for our bail bond FAQ-page.
Please be advised that www.sanctuarybailbond.com and Sanctuary Bail Bonds is not an attorney or law firm and does not provide legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, you are strongly encouraged to consider consulting with a competent attorney in your jurisdiction who can provide you with legal advice on your particular matter given that individual state, county or city laws may vary.
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