Even though it’s a common crime, shoplifting violations are taken very seriously. Just how seriously is dictated by each state’s individual criminal code. When the shoplifted item’s value is high, severe penalties may be handed down. If you are accused of shoplifting in Phoenix, you’ll need the help of a strong criminal defense attorney at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group.
So what exactly is shoplifting? And how can this charge affect your future?
What Is Shoplifting?
It seems like a small petty property crime, but shoplifting actually causes a great deal of damage to Arizona retailers’ financial well-being. As such, the charge can become quite serious depending on the dollar amount of the merchandise.
Taking products from a store without paying for them is commonly known as shoplifting. However, leaving a store with unpaid products is not the only way to commit shoplifting. The intent to steal, in some situations, as well as acting on that intent, can lead to shoplifting charges (or retail fraud). Acts that demonstrate shoplifting include:
- Taking products without paying for them or purchasing them legally
- Charging items to someone else without their permission
- Transferring objects from a previous container to a new container
- Changing labels or price tags to get an item for less money
- Hiding goods to make it easier to steal them
In order to be called shoplifting, the crime has to happen while the business is open. If the business is closed, the theft is considered burglary. In the state of Arizona, shoplifting is one of the most common offenses and can be charged as a felony.
ARS 13 1805
The criminal shoplifting laws in Arizona are identical to those in many other states. Shoplifting can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony. The value of the things taken, and whether a firearm was stolen, determine the severity of the shoplifting charges first offense. Other factors that affect how a shoplifting offense is charged include the number of items taken, the type of items stolen, the shoplifter’s age, and the shoplifting method used.
You’ll need a strong defense if you are facing this charge. To learn how our criminal defense attorneys can help you fight shoplifting charges first offense, contact Ybarra Maldonado Law Group.
Is Shoplifting a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Stealing property worth less than $1,000 is a class 1 misdemeanor, according to ARS 13-1805. However, a class 6 felony can result if a firearm is shoplifted. That’s even if the gun is worth less than that. Walmart and other similar businesses are often targets for shoplifted low-value items.
Frequently, community service or a diversion program is the punishment first-time offenders receive. Fines of up to $2,500 are possible, along with up to 60 days in jail.
A class 6 felony is the likely charge when the items stolen are worth between $1,000 to $2,000. Shoplifting with a firearm is automatically classified as a Class 6 crime. Shoplifting charges first offense class 6 felony, include a possible sentence of probation with no jail time for up to one year, or to prison for four months to two years. Contact a Class 6 felony lawyer for qualified criminal defense.
Theft of items valued at more than $2,000 is classified as a class 5 felony. A conviction for a class 6 offense can include a prison term ranging from four months to two years, or a year in jail with probation.
Penalties for a class 5 felony conviction range from half a year to two and a half years in prison, probation, and as much as 12 months in jail. An offender previously convicted of a felony faces a possible sentence of close to four years in jail, or seven and a half years if they have two felony convictions on their record.
When a deadly weapon is used during a shoplifting crime, it becomes an aggravated theft offense. This can also be considered assault. The crime can be upgraded to a robbery or armed robbery if threats were used when the crime was committed.
If a juvenile under the age of 18 shoplifts, they may not be held criminally liable.
Juvenile Instances of Shoplifting
People older than 18 are subject to the penalties outlined above. The juvenile system focuses more on rehabilitation for a minor accused of shoplifting.
However, store owners do have avenues to pursue against minors. They may file a civil lawsuit against the parent or legal guardian of a minor who took property.
Charge for Shoplifting?
For those who are considered first-time felony offenders, shoplifting charges for first offense are less harsh. According to the Arizona Legislature, a repeat felony offender is defined as someone who has committed two or more felonies. It’s also vital to understand what the term “continuous criminal episode” means.
“Continuing Criminal Episode”
It’s considered a “continuing criminal episode” if more than one offense is committed. This is defined by ARS 13 1805 as three or more theft crimes in the span of a 90-day period. Additionally, the value of stolen items on each occasion is at least $1,500.
How to Get Shoplifting Charges Dropped
To get your shoplifting charges first offense dismissed or dropped, it’s important to develop a shoplifting defense strategy. The specific facts of your unique case determine the defenses that you may choose. Common defenses include:
Unreliable Investigation and Evidence
This entails questioning the police investigation’s competence and the validity of the evidence utilized against you. Your lawyer should question what evidence was kept and what evidence was not, as well as the quality of the witnesses, their testimonies, the value of the allegedly stolen objects or services, and the quality of the police reports and record keeping.
Knowledge and Mental State
The prosecution must prove that the defendant hid items or left the store with the “intent” of not paying. Showing that the prosecution can’t prove your knowledge, motivation, or mental state can help get your charges reduced or dismissed.
If your shoplifting charge first offense is based on eyewitness testimony, challenging their testimony may benefit your case. You can challenge certain testimonies by using the hearsay rule. One of the least reliable forms of evidence is eyewitness testimony. In other cases, false arrests are the result of enticing photo lineups and misidentification in video.
Raise a mere presence argument if you were only in a store when a crime was committed. You did not have any criminal intent and did not participate in the act if you were simply present at the crime site.
Constitutional legal arguments can be used by your attorney to raise defenses, such as Miranda violations, illegal search and seizure violations, and violations of the right to counsel.
In Arizona, the prosecution must prove the stolen goods were worth a certain amount. Arguing a lower value for the item or service stolen is often successful.
Diversion agreements, also known as deferred prosecution agreements, let your case be dismissed if you successfully complete some type of obligation, such as repaying the item’s worth, attending a shoplifting class, or doing community service.
There is a mechanism to reach a civil compromise for misdemeanor shoplifting charges first offense accusations in Arizona. A misdemeanor compromise under ARS 13-3981 is an option to avoid jail time. It can also decrease penalties, and dismiss your case. This option is commonly overlooked.
Experienced Shoplifting Lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona
You’re dealing with a crime that has both legal and non-legal ramifications if you face shoplifting charges first offense in Arizona. It doesn’t matter whether you face felony or a misdemeanor charge. It can have far-reaching consequences such as jail time and other life-wrecking penalties that affect getting professional licensure, immigration status, background checks, job possibilities, and security clearances. To avoid these consequences, you’ll need to get a skilled shoplifting attorney to review your case.
We have successfully defended individuals accused of shoplifting in plea negotiations and at trial at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group. If you find yourself charged with shoplifting in Phoenix and need the services of a shoplifting attorney, please contact us! For a free consultation, call or text 602-910-4040 today.