If you are caught shoplifting in Phoenix, the penalty you face depends on the value of the item stolen and the particular circumstances surrounding the theft. This can make the difference in whether you get charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Don’t hesitate to contact Orent Law Offices, APC if you are facing shoplifting charges. Our Phoenix shoplifting defense attorneys have extensive experience handling these complex criminal matters. We know the laws that will apply to your case inside and out. We know the defenses available to you and can identify the one(s) that are best suited for your particular case. Our skilled defense team will work hard to keep your shoplifting offense off of your criminal record.
We offer a free consultation, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to our law office to schedule yours today. The state won’t waste any time building its case against you. The sooner you call, the sooner we can get started on building a strong defense for you.
Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes committed in Phoenix. In fact, according to one study, 1 out of 11 people admit to having taken something from a store without paying for it. However, shoplifting is a serious crime. It has a significant impact on your community as well as the economy.
Note that the shoplifting laws in Arizona only apply to goods taken from a store. A store is defined as any establishment where merchandise is displayed for sale. This means that it is not considered shoplifting if you take an item from someone’s house, for example.
Keep in mind that shoplifting does not require you to actually remove an item from the store. Instead, the crime occurs in any of the following situations:
Now, the law requires that you acted knowingly and with the intention of taking goods without paying the purchase price. This means that it would not be considered shoplifting if you placed an item in a reusable shopping bag with the intention of bringing it to the register to buy it.
In contrast to shoplifting, which is typically done with stealth, robbery involves the use of force or threat to take property from another person against their will. Robbery is considered a class 4 felony in Arizona. This carries a punishment of up to 3.75 years in prison.
However, if a dangerous weapon is used in the commission of the crime, the offense is considered a class 2 “dangerous” felony. This is known as armed robbery and carries a punishment of up to 21 years in prison.
As mentioned, the penalty for shoplifting depends on the value of the items taken and the surrounding circumstances.
If the item was worth less than $1,000 and there are no other factors, it is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. This carries a punishment of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.
If the item was worth between $1,000 and $2,000 and there are no other factors, it is considered a class 6 felony. This carries a punishment of up to 18 months in prison as well, as fines.
If the item was worth $2,000 or more, or if the shoplifting was done to assist a criminal street gang, the crime would be considered a class 5 felony. This would also apply if the shoplifting was part of what is referred to as a “continuing criminal episode.” A continuing criminal episode involves three or more thefts within the previous 90 days of property worth at least $500.
Now, theft of a firearm, even if the value is less than $1,000, is considered a class 6 felony in Arizona. Further, using a device, instrument, or container to facilitate the act of shoplifting is considered a class 5 felony. An example would be using a tool to remove the security tag from a piece of clothing. This carries a punishment of up to 2 years in prison as well as fines.
Keep in mind that the penalties for shoplifting are increased if you have priors. Specifically, if you have two or more convictions for shoplifting, burglary, robbery, or theft within the last five years, the offense is considered a class 4 felony. This carries a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor for shoplifting in Arizona, you may have alternatives to jail time and fines. One option that the court might order instead of fines would be performing community service. Another option is the Diversion Program. The Diversion Program is a form of rehabilitation, which will result in the case against you being dismissed. This has the benefit of keeping the offense off your record.
To be considered eligible for the Diversion Program, this must be your first offense. Further, you must be over 15 years of age, and there must not have been any weapons involved in the incident. Note that each county in the state has its own diversion programs, which can vary. The city of Phoenix also has a diversion program specifically for shoplifters in Maricopa county. During the program, you will learn how shoplifting impacts shopkeepers, their families, the community, and the economy.
It is important to note that the prosecutor involved in your case must agree to diversion. The topic typically comes up after you are charged with a criminal offense and you enter into plea negotiations with the prosecutor. These matters can be complicated, so it’s important to consult a qualified attorney for legal advice.
In most cases, it is illegal for someone to detain you against your will. However, Arizona law does allow a shopkeeper or store employee that suspects you of shoplifting to keep you confined while waiting for the police to arrive.
In order to lawfully detain you, the shopkeeping or store employee must have reasonable cause. An example would be if an employee saw you put an item in your bag. But, note that they have no right to detain you merely because you look suspicious to them.
Further, the detention must be done in a reasonable manner and only for a reasonable amount of time. Although this can be open to interpretation, no excessive force may be used and they can’t intentionally delay phoning the police in order to confine you for a longer period.
Note that you may face more than criminal charges if you are caught shoplifting. A shopkeeper is generally free to bring a civil case against you for money damages. In court, the shopkeeper could recover the value of the stolen goods, plus a $250 civil penalty.
However, if the shoplifter was a minor, the parent or guardian may instead be subject to a civil penalty. This penalty is $100, plus the value of the stolen goods. Now, this rule does not apply if the minor was emancipated. In this case, the civil case would be brought against the shoplifter directly.
In order to be found guilty of shoplifting, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high bar, and you have several defenses available that might apply to your case.
One defense is that you did not intend to shoplift. Remember, it’s not a crime to accidentally put an item back in a different place than where you found it. Another example where criminal intent is lacking is if someone else changed the price tag without your knowledge and you attempted to buy the item.
Another defense you may be able to raise is based on a violation of your constitutional rights. For example, if you were not read your Miranda rights when you were arrested, or if you were denied your request to speak with an attorney, the prosecution would not be able to use statements you made to police against you in court.
Your constitutional rights would also have been violated if you were searched or detained without a reasonable basis or held for an unreasonable amount of time. Racial profiling would fall under this category and the prosecution would not be able to use any evidence obtained through these methods.
These cases can be complex, so the best advice for any individual facing shoplifting charges is to have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side. A professional will evaluate your case and determine whether your rights were violated.
Remember, you have the right to be represented by legal counsel throughout all criminal proceedings. This right begins as soon as you are arrested and taken into custody. To protect your rights, it’s critical to have an attorney involved in your case from the beginning. This will help ensure that you put forth the best legal defense and find the best solution available based on your individual case or situation.
At Orent Law Offices, APC, we have decades of experience and success representing clients against criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested and/or are facing criminal shoplifting charges in Arizona, give our Phoenix law firm a call for help. We offer a free, no-obligation case assessment, so reach out to us today.