Shoplifting is one of the most commonly prosecuted theft offenses. In part, this is because the rate of shoplifting is quite high, but also because these days, stores have a wide range of anti-theft measures in place that allows them to identify and catch shoplifters. However, just because a store accuses you of shoplifting and the government brings criminal charges against you does not make you guilty. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have a long history of defending the rights of people charged with shoplifting and other theft crimes. We can help you understand the various shoplifting defenses and determine which best applies in your case.What Is Shoplifting in Arizona?
Arizona’s shoplifting law is contained in Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1805, which provides several ways someone can commit the offense of shoplifting. While most people associate shoplifting with carrying items out of a store, that is only one way the government can prove you guilty of shoplifting. Under Arizona law, shoplifting also includes:
- Switching or altering price tags to pay less than the retail cost for an item;
- Concealing an item on your person or in a bag while inside a store; or
- Charging the price of goods to a fictitious person or to a person without their authority.
In other words, you don’t have to make it out of the store to be arrested for shoplifting.What Are the Best Shoplifting Defenses?
Shoplifting is what is known as a specific intent crime. This means that the government can only prove you guilty of the offense if it can establish that you intended to steal. Thus, perhaps the most obvious defense in a shoplifting case is arguing that you did not intend to remove items from the store.
However, it is important to note that the Arizona shoplifting statute allows judges and juries to make certain assumptions about your intentions. For example, there is a presumption that someone who conceals an item while inside a store, either on their person or in another object, had the intent to steal that item. For example, if a store employee witnesses you place an object in your purse, they can stop you for suspicion of shoplifting. There is also a presumption that anyone who uses any sort of tool to manipulate an item’s packaging has the intent to steal the item. An example of this is using a pocket knife to open an item’s packaging. Again, store employees do not necessarily need to wait until you leave the store before stopping you.
Of course, a presumption can be overcome with compelling evidence. Thus, if you are stopped for shoplifting after putting items into your pocket and walking out of the store, you have the opportunity to explain why it was an accident. An experienced lawyer can help in this situation by contextualizing your actions. For example, maybe you were with your two-year-old child who was having a tantrum and, in the stress of the moment, you placed an item in your purse before rushing out of the store.
Although not a complete defense to shoplifting, an attorney may also be able to challenge the prosecution’s proposed value of the goods. This can turn a felony shoplifting offense into a misdemeanor. Remember, the burden is on the prosecution to prove every element of the offense, including the item’s value.Have You Been Arrested for Shoplifting?
If you were recently arrested for shoplifting in Phoenix, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney James Novak is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who takes pride in helping good people get out of bad situations. He is familiar with all the shoplifting defenses and has successfully defended countless clients, allowing them to move on with their lives with little to no impact on their lives. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.