Shoplifting is a serious crime, and charges should not be taken lightly. Even if you do not serve time in jail, a shoplifting conviction could have significant impacts on your future. Your personal life, ability to gain employment, and eligibility for housing could all be compromised by a conviction.
If you are facing this type of charge, it is wise to consult with a seasoned theft attorney to begin building a robust defense. An Edina shoplifting lawyer could review the details of your case and help you avoid the most severe consequences of a shoplifting accusation.
State Theft Laws Explained
State law does not explicitly outline shoplifting as a crime. Shoplifting is the common term for stealing from a brick-and-mortar retail establishment. Minnesota Statutes §609.52 governs theft and bars anyone from taking or making use of property not belonging to them with the intent of permanently depriving the rightful owner of the property.
Whether or not a theft attempt was successful is not relevant to the consequent criminal charges. If there was an intent to keep goods that rightfully belong to someone else, it is theft. Under the law’s definition of theft, activities like switching price tags on an item or making a fraudulent return also could be criminal acts.
If the value of the goods is less than $500, the crime is a misdemeanor known as “petty theft.” This offense usually carries a penalty of 90 days in jail, a $1000 fine, or both. However, a prosecutor might pursue felony charges if the suspect allegedly stole firearms or controlled substances, if there is more than one theft charge pending, or in specific other circumstances. An experienced Edina attorney could explain why a prosecutor might seek enhanced penalties in a specific shoplifting case.
What to Do After Being Accused of Shoplifting
Store personnel can legally detain an individual they believe has stolen something or committed theft by changing price tags or some other means. However, they must have reasonable grounds for doing so, and they may not use threats or excessive force. Store personnel might attempt to question someone, but the individual is under no obligation to answer.
Some stores have a policy of always prosecuting shoplifters, and others call the police on a case-by-case basis. Anyone arrested for shoplifting should reach out to an Edina attorney immediately. It is in their best interest not to answer police questions before talking to their lawyer.
Defenses to Shoplifting in Edina
Even when a case seems clear-cut, a savvy attorney could do a great deal to help a person accused of shoplifting. Thoroughly investigating the conduct of store personnel could reveal that there was no reasonable basis for detaining the accused. The accounts of alleged witnesses might differ from each other, raising doubt about their truthfulness. In such cases, a prosecutor’s evidence might be tainted, and they could decide not to bring charges.
Lack of Intent
A prosecutor must be able to prove that someone intended to steal. If they cannot prove intent, they cannot win their case. Shoplifting charges could result if an accused person is mistaken, confused, distracted, or mentally incapacitated. Proof that the accused was suffering from any of those conditions could serve as a defense to shoplifting allegations.
Diversion Programs for First-Time Offenders
In the case that the prosecutor has sufficient proof for a conviction, first offenders can often enroll in a diversion program. Such programs usually require some combination of community service, restitution, and counseling. Successful completion of a diversion program wipes a criminal record clean.
If a diversion program is not an option, a plea agreement often could keep an offender out of jail. A skilled attorney could help an individual build a defense against shoplifting charges and explore any diversion program options in Edina.
Consult with an Edina Shoplifting Attorney Today
You may be unsure of what to do next if you are facing charges for shoplifting. As soon as you are able, contact an Edina shoplifting lawyer to begin going over your legal options.
Your future is too precious to take your chances with a criminal conviction. An attorney could work with you to ensure that your rights are protected and build a solid defense on your behalf. Call now to learn more about what we could do for you.