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What Is And What Isn't Shoplifting

Shoplifting is the most common theft crime I see as a criminal defense attorney representing clients in Miami-Dade County and Broward County.

Shoplifting can either be a felony, which is grand theft ($300 or more) or a petit theft ($299 or less).

If arrested for a felony grand theft, you will be physically taken into custody. If arrested for a petit theft, you will likely receive a promise to appear, or PTA, from the officer and will be instructed to go to court.

Most shoplifting cases are typically made up of two witnesses. The first witness is the loss prevention officer, or LPO. This is the store security officer who makes the initial stop while you are still on, or off, store property allegedly with store merchandise. This witness either saw you (allegedly) take items while he or she was walking the floor, or they saw you on closed-circuit television (CCTV). This is a crucial witness in a shoplifting case. A shoplifting case can almost never be proven without the cooperation and attendance of this witness.

Shoplifting involves taking the property or another - in this case the property of the store - with the intent of permanently or temporarily depriving the rightful owner of that property without paying for it. In shoplifting cases, that fact is commonly proven through video or testimony highlighting the allegation that the accused walked past the “points of sale” with the merchandise without making any efforts to pay for it.

A point of sale in a retail establishment would be the cash registers.

If you take items past the cash registers, you will be arrested for theft. Even if you forgot that you had the items in your possession, the LPO and the cop who arrives don’t care. It is a defense to shoplifting that you did not intend to steal (a theft crime always requires a conscious intent to deprive).

It is unlikely, but you could also be arrested for shoplifting by placing items into your purse or another bag while in a store. Even if you did not walk past the points of sale, an LPO and cop could say that you evidenced an intent to steal by concealing the items. In this case, you could hypothetically be arrested for shoplifting but the proof would be weak. This would be the type of case that you would take to trial or push for a dismissal by the prosecutor because remaining in the store without trying to leave with the items does not prove an intent to steal. That would not be a shoplifting.

Every shoplifting case is fact specific. Talk with your theft attorney about the facts of your case so that the best defense can be formulated. Remember, a theft crime is a crime involving moral turpitude. A conviction - even a withhold - could result in your deportation if you are not a citizen. Even if you are a citizen, employers are reluctant to hire people with theft crimes on their records. It carries a stigma that you are a dishonest person who cannot be trusted with an employer’s money and merchandise.

Due to the consequences of being found guilty it is important to properly fight these charges.