Shoplifting charges can turn a routine shopping trip into a legal problem with severe consequences. In such situations, many individuals find themselves grappling with uncertainty, anxiety, and a host of legal questions.
Whether you or your child face accusations of shoplifting for the first time or have prior legal history, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can significantly improve the outcome of your case.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is stealing goods or merchandise from a retail store without paying for them. It typically involves a person surreptitiously taking items from a store with the intention of keeping them without paying the required purchase price. Shoplifting is a form of theft and is illegal in most jurisdictions.
Shoplifting can take various forms, such as:
- Concealing items on your body or in bags
- Walking out of the store without paying
- Switching the price tag of one item to another lower-priced item
- Causing a cash register to reflect a price less than the retail price of an item
- Disabling security devices
The motivations behind shoplifting can vary. An individual’s motivations may include financial need, thrill-seeking, or other personal reasons.
Regardless, retailers often implement security measures — such as surveillance cameras, security personnel, or anti-shoplifting devices — to deter and catch individuals engaged in shoplifting. And when shoplifters are caught, they can face legal consequences, including fines, probation, community service, or, in some cases, imprisonment.
Is Shoplifting a Big Deal?
There was a time when law enforcement or society in general did not take shoplifting very seriously.
Some retailers may not have prioritized stringent security measures or invested heavily in loss prevention technologies. As a result, shoplifting may not have been as closely monitored or deterred.
With the rise of global communication and information sharing, awareness of the economic impact of shoplifting on businesses has grown. Retailers and the public are more informed about the costs associated with theft, which has contributed to a heightened focus on preventing and addressing shoplifting.
Retailers have also become more proactive in addressing shoplifting by implementing robust loss-prevention strategies. This includes training staff, obtaining security personnel, and investing in technology to reduce theft, such as CCTV cameras, facial recognition, and electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems.
Many jurisdictions have also enacted or strengthened laws related to theft and shoplifting, leading to more severe legal consequences for offenders. Stricter penalties, including fines and imprisonment, seek to deter shoplifting and convey a message that it is a serious offense.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Shoplifting?
The criminal charges and resulting penalties from alleged shoplifting can vary significantly based on the value of the stolen items and the criminal record of the individual accused of the crime.
Here’s a closer look at how Nebraska law classifies shoplifting charges and the maximum penalties associated with each:
Class II Misdemeanor Theft
Theft of property valued at $500 or less.
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Up to $1,000 fine
Class I Misdemeanor Theft
Theft of property valued between $500 and $1,500.
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $1,000 fine
Class IV Felony Theft
Theft of property valued between $1,500 and $5,000.
- Up to 2 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 fine
Class IIA Felony Theft
Theft of property valued at $5,000 or more.
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Up to $15,000 fine
Under Nebraska law, repeat offenses can enhance the penalties against you. For example, an individual convicted of a second Class II Misdemeanor will face a Class I Misdemeanor, and for any third or subsequent convictions for the same, the individual will face a Class IV Felony.
A shoplifting conviction can have long-term effects on your life beyond jail time and fines. A criminal record can impact employment opportunities, housing applications, and eligibility for certain licenses or certifications.
An experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer can protect your future by building a strong defense on your behalf and fighting for the best possible outcome in your case.
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What Should I Do if I’m Caught Shoplifting?
If you are caught shoplifting, the actions you take can significantly affect the outcome of your case.
Here are some steps to take if the authorities accuse you of shoplifting:
- Remain Calm: Try to stay calm and composed. Panicking or attempting to flee can make the situation worse.
- Cooperate With Store Security: If store security approaches you, cooperate. Arguing or resisting may lead to additional charges.
- Provide Identification: You may need to provide identification. In some cases, refusing to identify yourself could lead to legal consequences.
- Be Mindful of Statements: Avoid making incriminating statements. You have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can be used against you.
- Contact an Attorney: If you are arrested or charged, seek legal advice from an attorney. They can provide guidance on the specific laws in Nebraska and help you navigate the legal process.
- Understand Consequences: Shoplifting can have serious consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and potential jail time. It can also have long-term consequences, such as harm to your professional career, housing options, and reputation. Understanding the potential outcomes is important.
- Attend Court Proceedings: If charges are filed, attend all court proceedings and follow the legal advice of your attorney. Failing to appear in court can lead to additional charges or a warrant for your arrest.
- Consider Civil Liability: In addition to criminal charges, store owners may pursue civil action to recover damages. Consult an attorney to understand your rights and potential liabilities.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me if I’ve Been Charged with Shoplifting?
If you face shoplifting charges in Nebraska, a criminal defense lawyer can explain the charges against you, the potential consequences, and your rights under Nebraska law. They can explain the legal process and guide you on the best course of action.
Your lawyer can conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding your case. This may involve reviewing surveillance footage, questioning witnesses, or gathering evidence for your defense.
They will assess the evidence against you and develop legal defenses or strategies to challenge the charges. This may include arguing lack of intent, mistaken identity, or procedural errors in the arrest process.
An attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf and may reach a plea deal that reduces the charges or penalties, such as entering a diversion program, attending theft prevention classes, or performing community service.
If your case goes to court, a lawyer will represent you during hearings and trial proceedings. They will present your defense, cross-examine witnesses, and advocate for your rights.
If a conviction seems likely, your attorney can work on minimizing the potential consequences. This may involve presenting mitigating factors that could influence the sentencing, such as remorse, lack of a criminal record, or personal circumstances. If you are convicted, a defense lawyer can explore post-conviction options, such as filing an appeal or seeking alternative sentencing arrangements.
Ultimately, your attorney will protect your constitutional rights throughout the legal process. This includes your right to remain silent, the right to legal representation, and protection against illegal searches and seizures.
Caught Shoplifting? Contact Berry Law
Shoplifting charges can have significant consequences — not just potential fines, jail time, and civil liability. Your career, housing opportunities, and reputation may be at risk.
If you face shoplifting charges, you need a Nebraska criminal defense lawyer who will build a strong case in your defense and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact Berry Law today to discuss your case.