People who think that shoplifting is a minor crime are making a big mistake. A conviction for a misdemeanor shoplifting can result in a jail sentence, a fine and a criminal record. Getting a job, qualifying for student loan, or entering certain professions may become more difficult, if not impossible. Felony shoplifting charges are much more serious, and carry correspondingly harsher penalties upon conviction.

But if you or a family member has been arrested for shoplifting, you should not despair. There are numerous viable defenses in such cases. And if you qualify for pretrial diversion, you may be able to avoid jail time and a permanent criminal record. This blog post will briefly discuss some aspects of shoplifting charges, possible defenses to these charges, and how it may be possible to obtain a satisfactory outcome in such cases.

When deciding how to proceed, an astute defense attorney will carefully examine the factual and legal issues. He or she will ask questions such as these:

  • Was this an “accidental” shoplifting case?
  • Can the prosecutor show that you actually intended to take the merchandise?
  • Did you actually steal the merchandise, or did the shop owner or manager just think you did?
  • Did you act under duress? That is, did another person threaten or coerce you into taking the merchandise?
  • Did the shop owner or manager mistake you for another person?

These or other potential defenses could result in a dismissal of the charge or a not guilty verdict.

But what if none of these are viable defenses given the facts of your case? What if there is some substance to the charge? If yours is a first-time misdemeanor offense, it may be possible to obtain pretrial diversion. If you qualify, you may have to pay restitution, perform community service and/or undergo counseling. After your probationary period has passed, the charge will be dismissed. You can then seek to have your record sealed. This will prevent those outside the justice system from learning about your arrest.