While you may not think it's a very serious crime, shoplifting can get you into deep trouble with the law. Not all stores or shops will pursue charges against those who shoplift, but for those that do, the people accused face an uphill battle to clear their names or protect their own interests.
Shoplifting is an interesting charge, because it has to contain at least two elements:
- The intent to take items from the original owner without paying the purchase price
- Willfully taking items that are being sold
The good thing about these two elements is that they can work to your advantage if you're accused of shoplifting. How?
Imagine this scenario. You and a friend go to a store, and your friend slips an item into your purse to hide it. You didn't intend to take anything or know that it was in your possession. Your attorney would be able to show that you didn't willfully take items that were for sale or avoid paying. This could be further proven if you paid for other items or were particularly surprised at being accused of the crime, which would indicate that you didn't know you had the items in your possession.
Without the intent to steal, there is no shoplifting charge that can lead to a conviction, in most cases. This is also important in the cases of minors. For instance, a child may not understand that taking candy or a small item from a store is illegal. If a parent returns it, the goal of the shop owner shouldn't be to get them into trouble but instead to help a child understand that what they did was wrong. Requiring intent and willful actions to charge someone guarantees, in the majority of cases, that those who do not know better won't be unfairly treated by the law.
Shoplifting can be a serious black mark on your record if you let it become one. Fortunately, many people who are charged are able to defend themselves and reduce or eliminate the possibility of a conviction. Your attorney will talk to you about your specific situation and what they can do to help you avoid facing unfair treatment by the law. If you stole, didn't intend to steal or have been falsely accused, you always deserve a chance to defend yourself and work toward a fair resolution for your case.