Spotsylvania County Shoplifting Lawyer
Although it may seem like a minor offense, shoplifting is generally classified as a Class One misdemeanor, even for a first offense, meaning the individual charged could be facing a number of serious penalties. Furthermore, a conviction will stay on individual’s criminal record potentially making it more difficult to obtain future employment or educational opportunities. As a result, most people want to try to keep their records clean, and should, therefore, consult with a Spotsylvania shoplifting lawyer to assist in building a strong defense. An experienced theft attorney can help by looking at the prosecution’s evidence and determining the strongest course of action for the accused to take.
How Shoplifting Can Be Charged
Shoplifting can be charged in one of two different ways. The first way is in a typical scenario in which an individual carries goods out of a store with the intent to steal them. This crime requires the actual removal of goods off of the physical premises or past what is called the “last point of sale” in order to constitute the completion of that crime.
However, there is an additional manner in which shoplifting can be charged which is referred to as concealment. Concealment is a crime that involves hiding from plain view, merchandise belonging to the store within a person’s personal belongings. For concealment to occur, it is not required that the individual leaves the store or pass by the last point of sale. In many cases, concealment is charged even though the goods are still on the store premises. In such cases, the concealment of merchandise constitutes an act of theft. This is because the government is entitled to what is called a “presumption of intent to steal” based upon the intentional concealment of that merchandise. In this way, an individual can be well within the confines of a store but, if he or she hides something that belongs to that store in his or her own personal belongings, that concealment can constitute a crime thereby warranting contact with a shoplifting lawyer in Spotsylvania.
Shoplifting vs. Theft and Larceny
Shoplifting is very similar to other theft related offenses because it involves the conversion of an item that belongs to another entity from its possession into that of another individual who has the intent to keep that item. Essentially, shoplifting is a specific form of theft that involves items taken from a retail marketplace in which the individual who takes the subject merchandise intends to permanently convert that merchandise to his or her possession.
Larceny, as a Spotsylvania shoplifting lawyer can explain, is any kind of theft, and shoplifting is one of the many crimes that fall under the umbrella of larceny. However, unlike shoplifting, larceny does not necessarily involve merchandise taken from or concealed in store premises. Larceny may also include money that has been taken or services for which the service provider has not been compensated. In this way, shoplifting is one of many different forms that larceny may take.
When to Contact an Attorney
Any individual who has been charged with shoplifting should contact a Spotsylvania shoplifting attorney as soon as possible. This is because such actions as discovery orders and evidence collection can take a significant amount of time. Within the criminal justice system, nothing happens quickly, so the more time a Spotsylvania defense attorney has to prepare the defense, the greater the chances of a positive case outcome and opportunity for avoiding shoplifting penalties.
Building a Shoplifting Defense
The appropriate defense strategy depends on the specifics of the individual case. Every shoplifting case is different and, as such, involves a specific set of facts.
In some cases, the defendant will dispute any intent to steal. In this scenario, the Spotsylvania shoplifting attorney will need to present evidence to contradict the government’s theory that the defendant intentionally stole.
For instance, if an individual buys a large number of items while shopping, he or she may forget an item that was placed or fell into a bag. After paying for the other items, a loss prevention officer may notice the item for which the individual has not paid and not believe that the individual simply forgot to pay for it. Under such circumstances, the individual may be charged with shoplifting and it is the defense attorney’s job to present evidence to refute any intent to steal.
All theft related crimes require the government to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt. While the simple act of carrying an item out of a store may reflect poorly on the charged individual, intent is often presumed. That presumption of intent is always rebuttable.
Initial Steps of Preparing a Defense
The first thing that a Spotsylvania shoplifting lawyer will do is talk to his or her client. In this conversation, the lawyer will ask the client to recount the event from his or her perspective. The lawyer will also find out what, if any, statements the client made to either the loss prevention officers or law enforcement.
Next, the defense lawyer will request any security footage from the store from which the items were alleged to have been taken. The lawyer will review this footage in order to determine whether or not the prosecution will be able to construct a successful case.
Types of Evidence
In addition to security footage, evidence in shoplifting cases almost always involves eyewitness accounts. Such evidence makes shoplifting cases very different from other types of theft cases as it does not involve concrete evidence such as financial records, contracts, or receipts. In this way, the evidence in shoplifting cases is often quite limited in nature.