Theft by shoplifting is a crime that might seem minor to some people, but it could have severe and permanent consequences. In certain circumstances, shoplifting convictions could lead to large fines and jail time.
If you have been arrested for shoplifting, then contacting a seasoned theft attorney right away is the best thing you could do to protect your rights. You should avoid speaking with store personnel, arresting officers, or prosecutors until your lawyer is present. If you have already been arrested and arraigned, and are currently facing charges, a Hennepin County shoplifting lawyer could present a strong defense and attempt to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
Minnesota law does not explicitly define shoplifting. However, the description of theft crimes in Minnesota Statutes § 609.52 covers the situations people commonly consider shoplifting.
Taking, concealing, or using property without the owner’s consent is theft under the law. That describes a situation where someone hides an item and leaves the store without paying for it. Individuals have also been charged with shoplifting for switching price tags on two items and leave the store having paid the lower price on the more expensive item. Prosecutors could also file shoplifting charges if someone consumes an edible item without paying for it.
Many people who face shoplifting charges allegedly took items of relatively low value. Even so, a conviction for shoplifting is a theft conviction. People with a criminal record of theft could be disqualified from many jobs, banned from getting leases or mortgages, and face other harsh consequences disproportionate to their crime. A Hennepin County shoplifting attorney could help someone avoid the serious ramifications of a conviction.
The severity of a shoplifting charge depends on the value of the items allegedly taken. The penalty a judge imposes depends not just on the charge for which the defendant was convicted but also their criminal history. A local store left lawyer might be able to persuade a prosecutor or judge toward leniency in a particular case.
If the property stolen has an aggregate value of $500 or less, the charge is misdemeanor theft. The maximum penalty is 90 days incarceration and a $1,000 fine. If the stolen property’s value is more than $500 but less than $1,000, conviction carries a penalty of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The theft of items of total value exceeding $1,000 is a felony, and the penalties go up as the value goes up.
Certain items trigger specific charges. Shoplifting a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance will be charged and punished as if the defendant stole an item with a value between $1,000 and $5,000, regardless of the drugs’ actual value. Someone who shoplifts a firearm of any value will be charged and punished as if they stole an item valued at more than $35,000.
People sometimes shoplift by mistake and yet are still charged as if they had a criminal intent to steal. Other people shoplift because of a fleeting error of judgment. A legal advocate could help a person in this predicament emerge from the experience with few long-term impacts. For those charged with more serious theft offenses, excellent legal representation could make a huge difference in the final outcome. If you have been arrested for shoplifting or are now facing charges, call a Hennepin County shoplifting lawyer as soon as possible. Time is of the essence.