Did you recently shoplift or plan to shoplift? Perhaps, it is a tough decision but you want to know how to get shoplifting charge dismissed. Things can always get out of hand.
Fortunately, you can have your shoplifting charge dismissed with the help of an attorney. In some cases, your attorney may be able to reduce the offense, such that you do not have to serve a jail term.
If you sit back without an attorney, you are going to appear in court for shoplifting but an attorney can make sure you do not.
Can You Get a Shoplifting Charge Dismissed?
You can get a shoplifting charge dismissed but it depends on your age, the value of the item you shoplifted, your past criminal record, the court, and how you escaped the store with the item.
Another important factor in your shoplifting case is the attorney you hire. If your attorney is inexperienced, the chances are that you are losing to the court.
Is Shoplifting a Misdemeanor?
Yes, shoplifting is a misdemeanor depending on the value of the item you shoplift, and a very common theft crime in the US according to HG.org.
In a state like Missouri, it is a misdemeanor if you steal items valued below $500.
Moreover, it is also stealing if your intention is to steal but you are caught inside the store.
Many stores that are targets for shoplifting such as Walmart uses cameras that check to know if you are hiding a stolen item. The tags can also get the security team after you.
A security ticket for shoplifting stays in your record permanently. Nevertheless, you can get rid of it by having it expunged.
Do not underestimate a shoplifting ticket. It can even land you in jail, typically a few days to months depending on the item value.
What is the Typical Punishment for Shoplifting?
The typical punishment for shoplifting is a jail term and a fine. The jail term and fine depend on your state, the judge, and the value of the item.
For instance, a Class A misdemeanor can land you up to a year imprisonment and a few thousand dollars in fine.
Of course, shoplifting will appear in your criminal record until you can expunge it.
If the amount of money is small, perhaps below $150, you may pay a few hundred dollars in fine but will not serve a jail term after warning. It will also appear in your criminal records permanently.
How to Get Shoplifting Charge Dismissed
As mentioned earlier, you can have the court dismiss the shoplifting charge against you. Below are the ways to go about it:
Hire an attorney
First, get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorney will provide a flat-fee price quote on the amount of money they will charge to represent you for shoplifting charges.
Some criminal defense attorneys provide free consultation and will estimate what your case involves.
Do not plead guilty
Your first mistake is admitting that you shoplifted. If there is no concrete evidence against you, do not plead guilty.
However, you may be able to withdraw your initial guilty plea. Let your attorney file a motion at the court seeking to withdraw your guilty plea. If the judge permits the request, your attorney can negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the offense or drop the charges against you.
If you delay withdrawing your guilty plea, it may be too late for the judge to consider your attorney’s request. In other cases, if you had your attorney with you when you pleaded guilty, the judge can refuse plea withdrawal.
Meanwhile, before you make this move of fighting the shoplifting charges against you, consult an experienced attorney. The attorney can be able to weigh your chances of getting away with withdrawing your plea.
Do not pay the fine
A police officer can tell you that shoplifting is not a serious crime and asks you to pay the fine to avoid a court appearance.
Unfortunately, paying the fine means that you are pleading guilty to shoplifting. This will also reflect in your criminal records permanently. Organizations that check your criminal record after a background check may not want to have anything to do with you.
Do not pay the civil demand fine
It is not mandatory to the civil demand fine to the store where you shoplifted. Meanwhile, if you were arrested by the local police for shoplifting, you be taken to jail. In some cases, you get shoplifting ticket with no jail sentence.
Unfortunately, the store can come at you. The store’s attorney can ticket you to pay a Civil Demand fine. The letter cites the amount you supposedly to owe the store and is written in a manner that threatens you to pay off.
The store may also give their reasons for demanding the fee, and, perhaps, what they will use it for. Depending on your attorney’s expertise, you may be advised to ignore it.
Meanwhile, if you refuse to pay the civil demand by the store, they can sue you to reimburse their expenses. They can request you to pay the fees of their attorney, so you need an attorney with the experience to get out of shoplift charges.
How Does Shoplifting Affect Your Record?
Shoplifting can affect your record in so many ways, including the following:
- A temporary or permanent ban from stores.
The store where you shoplift can ban you from entering any of their stores nationwide or to that particular store.
Depending on the value of the item you shoplift and how you make away with it, the ban or suspension can last for a year.
For instance, Walmart in your city can ban you from all branches nationwide. Unfortunately, if you violate the ban, they can have you arrested for trespassing.
- Difficulty to get loan approval.
If a lender decides to run a criminal background check on you, and discover you have a shoplifting record, they may not think twice before disapproving your request.
- Difficulty renting an apartment.
You will find it difficult to rent an apartment if you have this criminal record.
- Job application or internship problems.
Many employers will think it is a bad idea to employ someone with a criminal record. Therefore, you do not want the shoplift charges against you.
Before we conclude this section, note that a shoplifting record affects your ability to get federally subsidized housing. It can also hinder your chances of getting federal financial aid for college.
Can a Shoplifting Charge Be Removed from Your Record?
A shoplifting charge can be removed from your criminal record. Sometimes, it can be too late to withdraw your initial guilty plea for shoplifting, or the store won the case against you.
In this case, you want to have the conviction expunged from your record. Some states reviewed their laws to allow for people to be expunged for stealing. However, you must have a clean criminal record for the last few years, typically 3 years (depending on your state).
In your case, you have to wait for as long as your state specifies to be able to get rid of theft in your criminal record.
You can request to expunge a conviction for shoplifting by filing a petition with the court. Your attorney can also have this done.
You must appear before the judge for your hearing. The appropriate parties must also be informed about the hearing to give them an opportunity to testify against you. They can object to the expungement or removal of your stealing record.
Consult your local attorney to advise you on the steps appropriate in your jurisdiction or state.
If you file an expungement request yourself without an attorney, it can be tough to get rid of it successfully.
The process of removing shoplifting from your record involves paying a filing fee and notifying the proper parties (who can testify against you).
If your request for theft expungement is not successful, you may have to wait for another year to be eligible again. Of course, you will pay the filing fee again which is non-refundable.
Some stores where you shoplift will not call the police on you. If you are caught within the store, they will have you pay for the damages known as civil demand or as in your state.
Note that it is legal for security guards and employees to detain you after suspecting you of theft. However, if you are detained for too long and not found guilty by a store, they can be charged with false imprisonment.
Some stores will not immediately sue you for shoplifting, especially if you have no record of stealing from them. This is because it costs them more money to file a lawsuit in court against you. But they may want to sue you if you are caught with expensive valuables.