Shoplifting may seem like it is only a minor charge. However, shoplifting can have some serious consequences — especially to your record and your bank account. If you are planning on fighting the charge or making sure that the plea you get is the best bargain, then you should weigh your options carefully, as they could impact the rest of your life.
You may not think that you need an attorney for a shoplifting offense, but you may also not know the laws that pertain to shoplifting in your state. This could result in consequences that you didn’t expect and are far more severe than you anticipated. With an attorney on your side, you will be able to understand the charges and understand what your best defense options are, so that you can make an informed decision about your future.
Today we will take a look at how having an experienced attorney on your side can help you when you need it most.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is defined as the unauthorized removal of merchandise from a store without having paid for it. In Maryland, a person commits theft when they take property with authorization. It should be noted that shoplifting isn’t just successfully leaving the store with the stolen item. It also can be, in certain circumstances, the intent of stealing something or an act of furtherance of shoplifting.
An act in furtherance can include:
- Hiding or concealing an item that you have on you
- Removing an object from its packaging or covering it in or among other products
- Altering the price tag on the product
- Removing security tags or attempting to remove security tags
Consequences Of Shoplifting
When charged with a shoplifting offense, the charge is usually punished as theft or larceny, which can fall under a petty theft or misdemeanor theft if the stolen item’s value falls under a certain threshold.
However, as the dollar amount of the stolen item increases, so does the severity of the charge. Some of the penalties might start as infractions with fines that must be paid, but can increase to misdemeanors or even felonies, depending on the value of the item and the circumstances surrounding the charge. Each state uses different dollar amounts when classifying the offense levels.
In Maryland, a person who steals an item that’s dollar value is less than $100 is guilty of a low-level misdemeanor. Punishment for this can be imprisonment for up to 90 days and a fine of up to $500.
In comparison, a person who steals an item with a dollar value of $1,500 or more is considered guilty of a felony. If a person is found guilty of stealing at least $1,500 but less than $25,000 in property, then the maximum penalty is five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
3 Reasons You Should Hire An Attorney
The hard truth is that going into any legal situation alone is dangerous. The success rate of self-represented defendants in criminal law cases is exceptionally low, and the average person doesn’t have access to the years of legal knowledge that are required to defend against the court or the state..
With the help of an attorney, vastly improve your chances and you stand the best chance of a favorable outcome..
Reason #1. You Can Challenge the Charge
Just because you have been accused of a shoplifting charge does not mean you are guaranteed a shoplifting conviction. If you are charged with shoplifting, you can challenge that charge based on the mistake of witnesses, a mistake by the store, or the prosecutor’s failure to prove the elements of the charge.
With an experienced criminal defense attorney, you have the knowledge base of a legal expert who knows the best defense strategies, understands the burden of proof, and can take advantage of the technicalities that can get your case dismissed.
Reason #2. The Charge Can Go On Your Record
Shoplifting usually falls under the category of criminal larceny in most states. This prohibits taking property without permission. Depending on the severity of the charge will determine whether the crime goes on your criminal record or not. As mentioned earlier, the severity is determined by the value of the item that you are being accused of stealing.
Reason #3. The Charge Can Affect Your Credit
Depending on how your case is being handled, being convicted of shoplifting could affect your credit. Usually, most crimes don’t affect your credit rating. However, some stores may send shoplifters a civil demand letter. The civil demand letter will order you to reimburse the store or pay the civil fine on top of a criminal penalty that you will get with the conviction.
In this case, the business will threaten legal action if you do not pay for what you have taken. It’s even possible that a negative civil judgment would affect your credit.
Let Widder Law Help You with Your Legal Needs
A shoplifting charge can get complicated, and navigating that on your own can be challenging. Maryland’s complex misdemeanor and felony guidelines can be overwhelming, but don’t let them stop you from finding the best criminal defense attorney possible.
Jeremy Widder Law provides more than legal practice, we listen to your unique situation to find the outcome that’s right for you. We work with you to solve the toughest legal issues and provide customized solutions with extraordinary focus on both client service and trial outcome. We are committed to walking with you from start to finish and giving your unique case the attention it deserves.
We’re ready to help. Let’s talk.