Presumptions in Shoplifting Cases

Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney Defending Clients Charged with Theft Offenses Throughout Maricopa County

When it comes to criminal offenses, most would agree that shoplifting is on the less-serious end of the spectrum. However, the reality is that a shoplifting conviction can result in serious consequences—including jail time. This is especially the case if you have prior theft convictions or the value of the allegedly stolen goods was significant. At the Law Offices of James E. Novak, our Tempe criminal defense attorney has more than 20 years of experience aggressively defending the rights of clients charged with shoplifting and other theft offenses. With our help, you can ensure that your arrest has as little impact on your future as possible.

Shoplifting in Arizona

Shoplifting is one of the most common theft crimes in Arizona and throughout the country. In Arizona, the crime is defined by Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1805, which provides a number of ways that someone can commit the offense. Under § 13-1805, the following all constitute the crime of shoplifting:

  • Walking out of a store without paying for goods;
  • Concealing an item in your clothes, a bag, or within another item’s packaging;
  • Charging goods to a fictitious person or to a real person without their consent; or
  • Switching the price tag of an item with the intent of paying less than full price.

However, committing these acts, without more, is not enough to prove that you shoplifted; the government must also establish that you did so “with the intent to deprive” the store of their goods. Of course, after being detained on suspicion of shoplifting, few people admit that they intended to steal the items. Thus, § 13-1805 allows the judge or jury to make certain inferences, or assumptions, about someone’s intentions based on their actions.

For example, a person is presumed to have the intent to intent to deprive a store of its property in either of the following situations:

  1. They knowingly conceal merchandise while in the store; or
  2. They use an artifice, instrument, container, device or other article to facilitate the shoplifting.”

Given the presumptions in shoplifting cases, it allows police to arrest you for shoplifting even if you never left the store. The effect of these presumptions is also that, at trial, the burden effectively shifts to you to prove that you did not have the intent to shoplift.

Overcoming the Presumptions in Shoplifting Cases

Just because the prosecution is able to rely on the presumption that you intended to deprive a store of its good doesn’t mean that you are guilty of shoplifting. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to put your actions into context. For example, say you are shopping at the department store, and you get a call that a loved one was in a car accident. Not thinking, you stuff the pair of earrings you were looking at into your purse and run out of the store. On the way out, the security guard stops you and accuses you of shoplifting. Not surprisingly, the security guard (and later, the police) don’t buy your story that it was an accident.

In this situation, while there is a presumption that you intended to steal the earrings, you could overcome that presumption. For example, you may call your loved one into court as a witness and present their medical records indicating that they were in an accident. It would then be up to the judge or jury to determine whether you had the necessary intent to shoplift. So, while the presumptions in shoplifting cases can be hard to overcome, they are not impossible.

Are You Facing Shoplifting Charges in Maricopa County?

If you were recently arrested for shoplifting, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Tempe criminal defense lawyer with more than 20 years of experience successfully handling shoplifting cases on behalf of his clients. Aside from being a skilled litigator, he is also a savvy negotiator and routinely obtains favorable plea agreements for clients who want to resolve their cases without a trial. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.