Shoplifting is one of the most common theft crimes in America. Approximately $10 million people are arrested for shoplifting every year. The majority of these thefts are small. Theft of merchandise under $200 is the most common form of shoplifting. People who get caught taking merchandise from stores may be facing legal consequences that include jail time and fines.
Even if penalties include nothing more than a fine or community service, a person’s reputation may be damaged by the event. A criminal record can affect a person’s ability to get a job or considerably damage a person’s reputation. Luckily, for those who have been charged with shoplifting, it may be possible to have charges reduced or thrown out altogether. Here are some common ways that lawyers defend their clients against shoplifting charges:
- Prove a lack of intent – Many people will accidentally take merchandise. In many states, a person may be forgiven if it is proven that the theft was a mistake.
- No previous record – A punishment will be less severe if a person has no prior convictions or charges.
- Unlawful arrest – Many laws dictate that retail stores should wait until a person attempts to leave the premise before they are arrested. Officers are also required to read Miranda rights if they want to question a victim and only use force if necessary. If they violate these laws, a person may be able to overturn charges.
- Lack of evidence – Many businesses have video tape surveillance. However, even if the crime is on video, someone must appear in the court in order to report that the video is authentic and is in no way edited. Since many stores do not have security cameras on their premises, many people accused of shoplifting were done so by word of other customers or store managers. Their testimony must be legitimate for charges to hold.
- Low cost of theft – Typically, defense attorneys can help negotiate lower sentences if the merchandise theft was of a low value.
To learn more about how a shoplifting attorney can help reduce or overturn shoplifting charges, visit the website of the Milwaukee burglary defense attorneys of Kohler & Hart, LLP.