Shoplifting can be a difficult charge to fight. Often, the evidence seems cut-and-dry, and this is exactly what the loss prevention officers want you to believe. A Commonwealth Attorney, Loss Prevention Officer, or Police Officer may advise you to simply plead guilty to avoid harsher punishment.
Remember that in our country, you have a Constitutional right to a defense attorney. Any accusation against you can be challenged. Here are five ways you can defend against a shoplifting allegation.
- Claim There Was No Intent
By law, shoplifting is defined as an attempt to conceal an item with no intent to return it. Looking closely at this definition, you may notice ways to challenge the charge against you.
Shoplifting, by its very nature, implies intent. Anyone who’s had a busy day knows how easy it is to make a mistake. Imagine you are at the grocery store with the kids. You have a limited amount of time, and the children are being wild that day. Between controlling them, checking your shopping list, and racing against the clock, anything could happen. It’s easy to put something in the lower part of the shopping cart, completely forget it was there, and walk it out to the car. You may even pack it into the trunk without realizing you hadn’t paid. Shoplifting should not apply to someone who made an honest mistake.
Imagine this same scenario, only this time, you realize you hadn’t paid for that 12 pack of soda. As you attempt to return it, you’re stopped by security. The police arrive, and you’re arrested for shoplifting. This is a charge based on a technicality. Remember that “no intent to return” is part of the shoplifting charge. If you meant to bring it back, you can argue this point in court.
- There Was No Attempt to Conceal the Item
Recall that concealment is part of the overall shoplifting accusation. It’s hard to imagine that someone who openly carried something out of a store did so on purpose. If the item in question wasn’t concealed, you can argue against the charge on two levels. First, you’re demonstrating that you technically weren’t hiding anything. Secondly, you’re also challenging intent, demonstrating that you had absentmindedly taken the product.
- Scrutinize the Evidence
Often, the means of identifying a shoplifter are questionable. Security footage is often grainy and blurry, shot at odd angles. It’s entirely possible that you were misidentified.
Even theft sensors are questionable. Many of us have been in situations where they went off when they shouldn’t have. They could also misidentify a thief. If two people leave at the same time, and one of them is carrying stolen merchandise, security could accuse the wrong person.
- Question the Witnesses
Eyewitness accounts are not always reliable, either. Think of how many people are in a store at once. Now consider how long you actually look at someone, taking in their features. Most likely, you are too busy looking at items and making decisions to worry about the other shoppers. Furthermore, many shoppers these days are hidden behind a mask. It can be easy to challenge an eyewitness, no matter how certain they are of what they saw.
5. Missing Evidence or Witnesses
Sometimes the government fails to secure the witnesses and evidence they need to prove your case. They either forget to subpoena witnesses or the witnesses fail to appear in court. A loss prevention officer may not provide the video evidence timely or at all and it can make it hard for the Commonwealth Attorney to prove a case. Also, sometimes the value of the items cannot be proven which also causes issues and could result in a win for you. A good rule of thumb is you do not plead guilty in court even if it is a good deal unless you see the whites of the officer or other witness’s eyes!If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, reach out to our office today. We can listen to your side of the story, and we may be able to craft your defense. You can contact us online or call us at (703) 940-0001.