Did you know that you may still receive shoplifting charges after leaving the store? Just because you made it out without getting caught doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone to receive a criminal charge several days after the incident took place. This often happens because the store wasn’t properly staffed with a security team or officer at the time of the shoplifting in question. Other times, a staff member may not notice the alleged theft until he or she reviews the security footage. If the store’s employees are able to identify you from that footage, there is a strong possibility that you may receive shoplifting charges after leaving store. If this is the case, you need a strong Phoenix criminal defense team on your side. Ybarra Maldonado Law Group offers competent, knowledgeable, and aggressive criminal representation. If you find yourself in a situation involving shoplifting accusations in Phoenix or the surrounding areas, allow us to fight for you.
What is Considered Shoplifting in AZ?
Shoplifting is the act of secretly taking an item from a store without intending to pay for it. The state of Arizona, as well as many other states, defines shoplifting as any of the following actions:
- Putting merchandise in your purse, bag, or pocket, or otherwise concealing the item, and walking out of the store.
- Not ringing up an item at self-checkout.
- Hiding an item or items within a different container so as to conceal the contents.
- Removing or altering a price tag to pay less than the original price.
- Paying for items with a false or unauthorized account.
- Removing an item on display without purchasing it.
Shoplifting can occur in any type of store, whether it’s a dollar store or a high-end boutique. The item could be anything as simple as a $2 pack of candy. Any type of commercial business operation where there is merchandise displayed and sold to the public is, and probably has been, susceptible to shoplifting.
Is Shoplifting a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
Shoplifting is a theft crime that can result in either a felony or a misdemeanor charge. The category it falls into depends on the severity of the crime, the value of goods stolen, and whether or not the item stolen was a firearm. In the state of Arizona, a theft conviction may result in any one of the following:
Class 1 Misdemeanor
The defendant may receive a class 1 misdemeanor charge if the value of the merchandise stolen was less than $1,000. Though this is the least severe punishment, sentencing may carry up to 6 months in jail, 3 years probation, and a fine of up to $2,500.
Class 6 Felony
A class 6 felony charge arises when the value of items stolen is above $1,000 but less than $2,000. You may also receive this charge if the property stolen was a firearm, regardless of the price of the weapon. This conviction carries anywhere from 6 to 18 months in jail, 3 years probation, and a fine as much as $150,000.
Class 5 Felony
There are a few different circumstances that may result in a class 5 felony charge. The first instance is when the value of the merchandise exceeds $2,000. The second instance is if the act occurs as a continuing criminal episode in goods obtained of over $1,500 in value. This means that the theft occurred during at least three separate incidents over a 3-month period. Finally, the last instance where a defendant might receive a class 5 felony charge is if they were assisting a gang or syndicate in conducting the act. A class 5 felony may be met with a sentence of 9 months to up to 2 years imprisonment. It also may carry a 3-year probation sentence and a maximum fine of $150,000.
Class 4 Felony
An individual may receive a class 4 felony charge if they use an instrument, such as a container or bag, to carry out the act of shoplifting. Someone may also receive this charge if they already have two prior offenses for a theft crime within the past 5 years. This conviction may carry a sentence of 18 months to up to 3 years. It also may possibly result in a fine of up to $150,000 and 3 years probation.
Can You Get Caught Shoplifting Weeks Later?
Many people are surprised to learn that they can receive shoplifting charges after leaving store. They assume that once they successfully make it out of the store, they are safe from prosecution. This is not the case. You don’t need to get caught or arrested while still at the store to receive shoplifting charges. It may not be until weeks, maybe even months later that the retailer presses charges against you.
However, there is a statute of limitations in place for how long retailers have to file charges. For a misdemeanor shoplifting charge, the Arizona statute of limitations grants 1 year to press charges. For felony theft crimes, the retailer has 7 years from the date of the incident to file against you.
How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught?
Receiving shoplifting charges after leaving store is not uncommon. As we mentioned before, it can take several weeks or even months before you get charged. It simply depends on when the retailer is ready to file charges and present their evidence to the police. Oftentimes, stores won’t even have the police contact you before filing these charges. This may seem like a violation of civil rights, but it is in fact legal for them to do.
Once the police become informed, they will refer the case to a prosecutor. You will then receive a Notice to Appear before the court. It is possible you may receive an arrest warrant if the theft was a felony, but this rarely happens if the warrant is based solely on probable cause.
If you receive a Notice to Appear, the next few moves you make are critical. This is when you should immediately seek help from a Phoenix criminal defense attorney. Should you fail to appear in court for your shoplifting charge, you may receive a bench warrant for your arrest.
How Long Can a Shoplifting Conviction Stay on my Record in Arizona?
In the state of Arizona, both misdemeanor and felony convictions will remain on your criminal record until you reach the age of 99. However, there is the possibility that you get a misdemeanor conviction removed from your record. Arizona law allows convicted offenders to request that the court set aside their conviction. If the court agrees, setting aside the charge will dismiss it from public records. A background check may still show that you once had a conviction, but the details will remain private.
Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area and received shoplifting charges after leaving store, let us help you. At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we fight aggressively for our clients so that they have the best chance at maintaining their freedom. Whether you’ve been charged with misdemeanor or felony theft, we offer your best shot at having your charges dropped or reduced. Call or text us today at 602-910-4040. You can also fill out a form via our website to schedule your free initial consultation.