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3 Ways to Challenge a Shoplifting Charge

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 09, 2012 7:06 AM

Fighting a shoplifting charge may cost you time and money, but it could also pay off in the end. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help to get your charges reduced, dropped, or perhaps even removed from your record.

A defense attorney will typically try to poke holes in a shoplifting case by challenging the evidence and procedures that led to an alleged shoplifter's arrest.

Here are some ways that can be done:

Challenging the alleged act of shoplifting. Shoplifting laws vary by state. But in general, the crime includes two elements:

  • The intentional concealment or possession of an item offered for sale, and
  • The intent to permanently deprive the store of the item without paying for it.

With both elements, intent is key. An experienced defense lawyer may be able to fight a shoplifting charge by arguing that her client didn't intend to shoplift -- perhaps she accidentally forgot to pay, or tried to immediately return the item upon realizing her mistake.

Challenging witnesses. While many shoplifting cases turn on video evidence, others rely on witness observations that can be challenged as unreliable, biased, or flat-out false.

Negotiating a deal. An experienced defense lawyer may be able to fight your shoplifting charge by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor, and perhaps even getting your arrest or conviction expunged (if possible in your jurisdiction). An attorney may also be able to negotiate directly with the store owner to avoid a shoplifting prosecution altogether.

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