Movies and TV shows tend to make light of shoplifting. On the screen we see a lovable rascal dashing down the sidewalk with their candy bar prize, while a stiff shopkeeper shakes a fist from the open doorway of the store. Shoplifting can be an initiation ritual, a political statement, a quasi-Robin Hood affair. At least, that's the way it is at the movies. In real life, people are often peer-pressured into shoplifting; others shoplift because of real economic hardship; and still others shoplift out of a compulsion or addiction. In some scenarios, mistaken store officials accuse innocent people of shoplifting. No matter the reason, shoplifting looks less glamorous in a courtroom, and the penalties can be severe. If charged with shoplifting in New York State, you might even be facing jail time.
Even if you were caught “red handed,” you shouldn't jump to a guilty plea. Learn about your options and contact an experienced attorney.
CHARGED WITH SHOPLIFTING? HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
When facing a shoplifting charge, the most important thing is to understand the possible penalties you could face.
- Theft of items valued under $1,000 is petit larceny in New York State. Petit larceny is a Class A misdemeanor.
- The penalty for petit larceny could be a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
- You may face charges in civil court as well as criminal court. Many big-box retailers take aggressive action against shoplifters. In New York State, a vendor can sue for up to five times the value of an item (or service).
A charge is not necessarily a conviction, however – even if the store has eyewitness testimonial, security camera footage, and other evidence on its side.
- If you didn't commit the crime, you'll need to hire an experienced trial attorney who can present your version of events, establish reasonable doubt, and have all charges dropped or dismissed. The charge might also be a case of mistaken identity. If you're innocent, you deserve a clean record a quick turnaround in court.
- Your attorney could argue that the shoplifting was inadvertent by establishing significant doubt about your intent to hold the item or even your intention to pay for the item. The court might reduce your charges to a violation, or even drop them.
- If you are a first-time offender with a clean record, your county might offer an education program, reducing or dismissing your charges if you agree to complete it.
- It's also important to remember that the value of the goods (or services) can go a long way toward influencing a judge or prosecution's decision to offer a plea bargain.
WHEN EXPERIENCE MATTERS MOST
If you've been charged with shoplifting in Western New York, you need to put your trust in a professional who knows your rights and has experience mounting different types of shoplifting defenses in Buffalo-area courtrooms. Criminal defense attorney Drew Fritsch of Buffalo, NY, is a former prosecutor, who knows how to fight with sensitivity and expertise for the best result possible in your circumstances. Call today to set up a free consultation.