Most people don’t consider shoplifting to be a particularly serious theft-related crime, but a conviction may result in jail time and hefty fines. You may also have to reimburse the store for up to 3 times the amount of goods you allegedly stole. In some cases, you may even face felony charges that can seriously jeopardize your future. When potential employers see a conviction for shoplifting on your record, they may judge you as an untrustworthy person.
For these reasons, you should fight your shoplifting charges with the help of a skilled and experienced Indianapolis shoplifting lawyer. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, you may be able to avoid all or most of the penalties for an Indiana shoplifting conviction.
What Does Indiana Law Say About Shoplifting?
There is no specific statute for shoplifting in Indiana. Instead, people suspected of shoplifting are prosecuted under the State’s theft laws. According to Illinois law, you can be charged with theft if there is evidence that you knowingly exercised unauthorized control over someone’s property with the intent of depriving that person of the property’s value or use.
Shoplifting comes under this definition because if you take goods from a store without paying, you are taking store property without their consent while depriving the store of the goods’ retail value. The penalties for shoplifting depend on the number of convictions you’ve had and the value of the goods you allegedly stole:
- Class A Misdemeanor – If you stole less than $750, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or fines of $5,000.
- Class 6 Felony – A second conviction or a first conviction involving between $750 and $50,000 is a Class 6 felony carrying a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
If you get convicted of shoplifting, the merchant may also sue you in civil court. If they win, you may have to pay them up to three times the value of the goods you allegedly took – or $100, whichever is greater. You will also have to pay their attorney fees and court costs.
How We Handle the Defense of Shoplifting Cases
To prove that you committed retail fraud, a prosecutor will use evidence such as video surveillance footage and the testimony of the store’s loss prevention officers (LPOs) or any other employees who witnessed the alleged theft. Your Indiana shoplifting lawyer may be able to defeat this evidence by:
- Interviewing the LPOs and showing that they lack credibility as witnesses because of poor training and possible racial bias (if applicable)
- Highlighting any behavior by the LPOs that violated your rights or demonstrated a lack of training
- Using surveillance footage to show inconsistencies in the testimony of the LPOs or store employees
- Arguing that the surveillance footage and witness testimony do not show that you are the culprit with the degree of certainty necessary to sustain a criminal conviction
Unfortunately, these strategies are not possible in some cases. In your situation, the prosecutor may have access to surveillance footage that clearly shows that you stole from a store. The store employees may be well-trained professionals who caught you red handed. Even in cases such as these, your criminal defense lawyer will seek a good outcome for you.
Depending on your criminal record and the circumstances of your shoplifting case, you may qualify for a pretrial diversion program. Instead of going to trial and receiving a criminal conviction, you may be able to perform community service. If you successfully complete your required community service hours, the prosecutor may then drop the charges against you.The pretrial diversion program is usually available only to first-time offenders, but there are exceptions.
An Experienced Indianapolis Shoplifting Lawyer Can Help
Attorney Sean Hessler has built his reputation on his ability to guide clients through the criminal justice system to successful outcomes. At Hessler Law, our priority is to develop the best defense strategy for each client and to be uncompromising when it comes to defending their rights.
If you’ve been charged with shoplifting, call us today at (317) 886-8800 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.