There are few things more frustrating and stressful than being accused of something you didn’t do, and when those accusations lead to legal ramifications, well, that only makes it worse. For example, the act of shoplifting – otherwise known as the petty theft of another’s property – is an incredibly common crime with consequences more severe than you may think, and whether you did it or not, you’ve been arrested for it. You never expect it to happen to you, to be staring down a criminal conviction for a petty theft, but now that you’re experiencing it you only have one question on your mind:
What do I do now?
Is your theft a felony or a misdemeanor?
As with most things in life, there are multiple ways this can go. Since shoplifting can happen to an item of any value, its legal consequences vary accordingly in severity. It can be a minor charge you may be tempted to shrug off (don’t) or it can be life-altering and expensive. Understanding the charges brought against you and what their penalties could be can help you make an educated decision on your next step. So, let’s break it down. Firstly, it will either be considered a misdemeanor or a felony depending on how much the merchandise is worth.
- Property worth less than $100. This could earn you a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
- Property worth between $100 and $1,000. There’s more of a jump than you may think. You could be sentenced to up to 18 months in jail, but with the same $500 fine.
- Property worth less than $1,000, and you have two prior theft-related convictions. This is the most severe of the misdemeanors. You’re looking at 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Once we get beyond $1,000, it crosses the line into felony territory, and the term “shoplifting” may no longer apply:
- Property worth between $1,000 and $10,000. This may result in up to a decade in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- Property between $10,000 and $100,000 could mean a $15,000 fine and 15 years in prison.
- Finally, if the property in question is worth over $100,000, the penalty could be 25 years incarcerated and a matching $25,000 fine.
Theft is taken incredibly seriously by courts — and by employers. So, not only could a shoplifting conviction rob you of a pretty penny and your freedom, it could also affect your ability to get hired in the future. Furthermore, anything that would require a background check would find it — and I’ll be frank, it’s usually a deal-killer. Apartments, new vehicles, mortgages, and loans would be a constant fight for approval long after your time has been served and your debts paid, and even any future legal testimony would have a shadow of doubt against it.
What to do if you’re charge with shoplifting
You may have seen this coming, but I’ll say it anyways because it’s true: get an attorney, and get one quickly. Really, seriously, it is the best thing you can do for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you know you didn’t do it; it doesn’t matter if the charges seem minor. What matters are the consequences you’ll find yourself facing if you get convicted.
Therefore, the best thing to do when arrested for shoplifting is to not get convicted.
That’s what your attorney is there for. The proper representation will argue aggressively against the prosecution and could negotiate an arrangement that avoids conviction. This could be a disposition, a trial to entirely clear your name, or any other number of things. When you trust a skilled attorney with the details of your case, they can work with you to figure out the best way to proceed, and they’ll know how to make it happen.
So now it’s time to act, and give an Annapolis shoplifting defense attorney the chance to help you. If you’ve been arrested for shoplifting, regardless of the amount, you want to call Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law. Our skilled, compassionate team wants to fight for you — and we know how. You can find us in Annapolis and Ellicott City, so start with picking up the phone and calling us at 410-271-1892 or filling out our easy contact form. Don’t try to deal with this stressful, complicated situation alone; your future’s not worth it.
And remember — Keep Calm and Call Drew.