Lawyer Advice Shoplifting
There are several different but universally accepted legal theories under which prosecutors can allege someone committed shoplifting: the classic situation when store merchandise is stolen or an attempt to steal store merchandise is made; the price tag of the merchandise is intentionally misrepresented or changed; or merchandise is fraudulently exchanged for money or other store merchandise.
A shoplifting case can be pursued as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending upon a number of factors including: the amount of the alleged theft; the Defendant's prior record; if a pattern of thefts occurred; the intent of the Defendant (if the intent was to shoplift in order to resell the merchandise to another person or business, the charge pursued is often Organized Retail Theft); whether or not there was any type of violence involved (which could potentially lead to an unarmed or armed robbery charge, depending upon the circumstances); whether or not the Defendant was employed by the store (which is often pursued as an embezzlement charge). The laws of each State may vary concerning these laws and the possible punishment.
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Major retailers across the USA have implemented well designed loss prevention related procedures with the goal of reducing shoplifting losses, reducing high insurance costs, avoiding contested and/or costly litigation, and deterring store theft in general. The different methods used by stores to combat shoplifting includes (but is not limited to) the following:
1. well staffed and trained loss prevention personnel;
2. receipts and merchandise checked at the door to guard against push outs or retail theft;
3. strategic use of high definition video cameras (with the ability zoom in and move in different directions), closed circuit television, sensor tags, face recognition technology, and other surveillance equipment;
4. regular review by Loss Prevention of inventory, sales, and camera footage;
5. use of membership cards, credit cards, and debit cards, and employee training to identify alleged shoplifters and potential witnesses;
6. information and databases gathered concerning suspected prior shoplifters used for investigative purposes, including identifying potential shoplifters inside the store;
7. store designs to eliminate blind spots and other areas where merchandise can be concealed;
8. customer service to make the shopper feel that they are being watched;
9. cultivating relationships with local law enforcement;
10. willingness to prosecute individuals, and to appear at Court for court proceedings;
A recent shoplifting allegation handled by Hilf & Hilf, PLC involved the alleged theft of liquor from a national retailer. The national retailer conducted an investigation related to discovered shortages in their inventory of a particular brand of liquor. Specifically, the number of bottles of a brand of liquor that were inventoried at the beginning of a particular day did not match the number of that bottles in stock at the end of the day, when compared to sales records for the product for the date. The national retailer reviewed the entire date's camera footage for the camera positioned in front of the liquor display to determine when, where, and who took the liquor in question. The national retailer used high resolution cameras to determine when the liquor was taken from the shelf and that the alcohol was concealed in a purse in a different aisle in the store (they followed the person from when she entered the store until she exited the store with a number of cameras). The national retailer was able to identify who took the liquor, because the individual purchased some items on the date that the alcohol was taken with her membership/credit card. The image from the high resolution video footage matched the picture on the membership card (they could zoom the camera on the face in high resolution). The national retailer then used the individual's membership information to determine what other dates and store locations she shopped at, what she purchased, and what she didn't purchase. The national retailer reviewed the videos from different dates and stores to determine that other in store thefts of liquor and food items occurred. They also tried to determine if there were any persons aiding and abetting her with the alleged thefts. The national retailer authored loss prevention reports, preserved the videos, calculated the amount of the theft from these multiple occasions, and reported that information to the law enforcement agencies that had jurisdiction of the matters. Based upon the information provided by the national retailer to law enforcement, detectives contacted and later interviewed my eventual client and obtained an inculpatory statement from her concerning these incidents. The information gathered was also used to pursue other cases against other individuals. In spite of the above information, I was able to obtain a resolution that involved a reduced charge and no incarceration.
It is important to remember that not everyone who is investigated of a crime is guilty of what they are accused of. Even with the latest loss prevention technology and a small army of loss prevention personnel, mistakes are still made and persons are still sometimes falsely arrested due to errors in judgment (false identification of a suspect, false interpretation of a situation, etc.), cultural issues, and procedural errors - all of which can potentially lead to obtaining an acquittal, dismissal, or negotiating for a great result.
You should always remember that your statements can be used against you. Do not discuss the accusation with anyone except your lawyer, and only with your lawyer when you are in a private and confidential location.
If ticketed or otherwise accused of shoplifting, it is very important to hire a criminal defense lawyer right away. The criminal defense lawyer that you retain will take a number of steps to help you, including:
1. provide you with a sound legal strategy, and great advice;
2. fight for you to receive a reasonable bond to keep you out of custody while the case is pending. Fight for bond conditions to be reasonable;
3. obtain all the available discovery materials to properly fully defend the accusation, which can include the following: police report(s), loss prevention report(s), witness statement(s), in store video(s), police video(s), photograph(s), statement(s) the police and/or loss prevention claims that you made, etc;
4. research and analyze any evidentiary issues that may exist, and address those issues with the Court;
5. ultimately, you can either fight your accusation at trial in front of a Judge or jury, or resolve the case through a plea or plea bargain (if a plea bargain is offered). Reaching a resolution of your shoplifting accusation without having a trial may involve a plea bargain (an agreement with the prosecution to dismiss, expunge, or reduce the charge(s) against you) or a sentence agreement (an agreement with the Judge [such as Killebrew agreement] to impose a specific sentence, such as avoiding or limiting any confinement);
6. if convicted, your lawyer will try and obtain a favorable sentence with the Court. In some instances, those efforts will include trying to keep the conviction from appearing as a public record against you;
7. your lawyer should give you the confidence to feel that the case is being handled in professional and wise manner.
Before your next scheduled Court date for your shoplifting related accusation, make the smart decision to hire an experienced defense attorney to help you obtain the best possible result for your circumstances. Again, any shoplifting related offense (if convicted of the same) will likely cause you many problems well into the future, including making it extremely difficult to find a job or establish a good career, because many employers do not want to risk hiring someone convicted of stealing. Hire a highly regarded and respected attorney to defend you, who is impassioned, zealous, and aggressive, with many years of experience inside and outside of courtrooms.
If you have been accused of any theft related crime, such as shoplifting, now is the time to make an impactful decision concerning you and your future by contacting Hilf & Hilf, PLC right away.