In Virginia, shoplifting is similar to larceny, in that they are both types of theft crimes. The shoplifting law says that if someone takes, defrauds the owner of the property, conceals, or otherwise assumes possession of property inside a business without the owner’s permission, that person can be charged with shoplifting. This charge applies if the dollar amount of the item(s) stolen total $500 or less. If the monetary value of the property is over $500, the criminal charges are enhanced to the felony offense of grand larceny.
Shoplifting differs from other theft and related offenses because it has to do specifically with the goods or merchandise at a store. Shoplifting can even be something like changing the price tag on an item. The point is that one is attempting to take something or defraud a merchant of something that is in the store. That is the biggest difference between the two.
If you are facing shoplifting charges in Alexandria, contact an experienced Alexandria shoplifting lawyer today to begin working on a defense for your case.
For a person to be convicted of shoplifting in Alexandria, first, the prosecutor will need to prove that the person acted with the intent to go ahead and take the items without paying, and that the person willfully concealed the items or otherwise altered the price tag of the item, or assisted somebody else in doing so.
In order to prove those things, the prosecutor is going to have to show intent—perhaps by the fact that the person walked out the door without paying, or the person put the item in a pocket. There are many ways that a prosecutor can prove intent and the actual concealment or taking of the item. For example, if a person puts the item into a bag to conceal it from view as they leave the store, that would count as shoplifting.
Beyond that, for the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony crime, the prosecutor is going to have to show the price of the stolen item itself. To prove that something carries a certain value, the prosecutor’s next steps for a shoplifting charge are quite simple, because they can call somebody from the store to testify as to what the price of the stolen item is. This is harder with items that may be unmarked, or have prices that fluctuate in value. With these types of items, the prosecutor has to prove that the item was worth more than $500 to be able to charge someone with a felony in Alexandria.
In Alexandria, if someone is convicted of a misdemeanor theft charge—a misdemeanor shoplifting charge of an item valued at less than $500—then one is going to face up to one year in jail and a potential fine of up to $2,500. But, if someone is convicted of shoplifting of $500 or more, that will be treated as a felony in Alexandria and the potential punishment could be up to 20 years in prison with a significantly higher fine, thereby making it imperative a shoplifting lawyer in Alexandria is contacted.
For a first-time offender of a relatively minor shoplifting charge, there are often programs that they can participate in as part of their sentencing, for example, a diversionary program or community service. This might result in leniency from the prosecutor or a judge, in the form of a nolle prosequi or a dismissal. For a second time offender, however, this kind of break will not be available, so at the least, the individual will certainly face a criminal conviction, usually with active jail time depending on the circumstances of the case.
Depending on the type of case and the facts of one’s particular case, there might be different options available for alternative punishments. Certainly, for the first offense, the first offender’s stop-shop program is an option where someone takes a class and is on probation for a certain amount of time and then as a result of one’s successful completion of both of those things, the charge will be dismissed.
Additionally, there are opportunities where somebody could go ahead and complete community service and that could be a potential outcome where somebody does a lot of community service in the past and pays a fine. Certainly, in every situation, somebody is going to have to repay the value of the item and see to it that the item is recovered or that it is repaired if it is damaged as a result of the taking.
Alexandria shoplifting lawyers approach each case differently depending on the facts of the case and depending on exactly what someone is accused of taking.
However, some potential defenses to shoplifting that your lawyer will look at in cases will be things like a lack of intent; not actually taking the items from the property; mistaken identity (if they think that it is one individual, but it was actually somebody else); or if they are attempting to charge someone with the heightened crime of a felony because they are saying that the amount of the item was more than $500, then a defense would be to show that the item was worth less than $500. Each defense is specially crafted for the circumstances of an individual case, so the specifics of any defense are the direct result of the specifics of the charges being faced.
A person who is charged with shoplifting might want to hire a criminal lawyer for the same reason that anyone charged with theft would want to hire a shoplifting lawyer in Alexandria. Shoplifting is a serious offense, and depending on the value of the items that the person took, it may be charged as a felony. Somebody who is charged with shoplifting should contact an Alexandria shoplifting lawyer immediately. Specifically, an individual should contact an attorney who knows various kinds of diversionary programs, and what kind of situations are available so that the individual can help to avoid a shoplifting condition. Additionally, a criminal defense attorney will be able to provide support and creative defenses to some of the shoplifting accusations.