If you have been charged with shoplifting, you’re probably unsure of what to do next and how to defend yourself. While the police and the courts are supposed to be there to protect you, they can also be intimidating and feel threatening.
The good news is that you do not have to face these challenges by yourself. You can get help from a dedicated criminal defense attorney like those at Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC. They know how to work with law enforcement officials and prosecutors and show you how to fight a shoplifting charge.
What Are Shoplifting Charges?
Shoplifting is usually committed by customers who conceal merchandise in their clothing or bag. Shoplifting may also include trying to return stolen items for cash or gift cards at another store.
Some stores have security cameras that record shoppers’ movements while they’re in the store, but retail theft is hard to detect because there are so many people shopping at any given time. Some stores even have undercover security agents who look like regular shoppers but are actually watching for thieves.
Types of Shoplifting Charges
The first thing anyone accused of shoplifting should know is that there are different types of shoplifting charges. There’s petty theft and grand theft, for example, and there’s a difference between a first-time offense versus repeat offenses.
What you’ll be charged with depends on the value of the merchandise that you’re accused of stealing. If it’s less than $500, then you’re likely facing petty theft charges. If it’s over that amount, in Texas, you could be facing a grand theft charge with serious punishments including possible time behind bars.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Fight Shoplifting Charges
Keep in mind that when you’re facing shoplifting charges, your options are limited if you choose to represent yourself in court. Your best choice may be to consult with an experienced lawyer and see what advice we can give you about your case.
A criminal defense attorney can help you fight shoplifting charges in several ways, like the ones below:
- Finding Camera Surveillance Footage – If there are cameras in the store where you were accused of shoplifting, this is one of the best ways to prove your innocence. Your lawyer can request copies of any relevant videos from police or management so that there’s no question about their authenticity.
- Getting Witnesses On Your Side – Sometimes all it takes is one person willing to testify on your behalf when you’re accused of shoplifting in order for charges to be dropped or reduced dramatically. Lawyers are expert interviewers and can help find witnesses that could cast a shadow of doubt around your guilt.
- Representing You in Court – Taking your case to court can be stressful. Your lawyer can present your defense and help you face the charges both before and during your trial.
Your Options for a Strong Defense
There are many avenues to reduced or dropped charges, and your lawyer has the tools to make that happen. For example, if there are mitigating factors involved in your case, like mental health issues, your attorney may be able to negotiate a deferred sentence. That means that if there are no further incidents within a certain period of time, then no conviction will appear on your record.
If you have been arrested for shoplifting and you have not yet been charged, then your attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges altogether. An attorney may be able to persuade prosecutors that the evidence against you doesn’t support a conviction, or that certain factors wouldn’t justify prosecution under the circumstances.
For example, if someone witnessed you taking some merchandise but didn’t report it until after you had left the store, then this could be used as evidence of innocence at trial, even if there is other evidence against you.
Usually used as a last resort, the most common plea bargain involves pleading guilty or no contest in exchange for getting a reduced sentence or other favorable terms. The prosecutor may offer something as simple as community service or restitution in exchange for dropping the charge or reducing your sentence.
Call a Shoplifting Charges Lawyer
Shoplifting is a serious crime that can result in dire consequences. There’s a lot that our lawyers at Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC can do for you if you’re worried about how to fight a shoplifting charge.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, you have a chance to build a strong defense with a lawyer’s help. To learn more about our services, contact us as soon as possible by calling 817-334-7900 or by completing the following online contact form.