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You Are Stopped for Shoplifting. What are your Options?

Some people shoplift even if they can afford the merchandise. Whether people shoplift because of the thrill of it or some other mundane reason, some people shoplift without any thought of the real consequences of their actions.

If you are suspected of shoplifting, store personnel have possibly detained you. Here are some tips to remember to ensure you do not aggravate the situation in cases where there is suspicion that you have shoplifted.

If You Have Been Detained for Shoplifting

  1. Stay calm and cooperate with store personnel. Do not make or sign any admissions or confessions.
  1. Remember that store personnel are not allowed to use unreasonable force against you. This means they cannot unreasonably detain you nor handcuff you, unless you have given them a reason that shows you are going to be disruptive. This is why it is important for you to stay calm and not to do any act of aggression that could aggravate the situation.
  1. When the police arrive, they will either arrest you or give you a desk appearance ticket (DAT). If this is your first time to be allegedly caught shoplifting, you will be given a DAT, which states when you should appear in court. Although a DAT may seem minor, you must take this seriously and immediately consult with shoplifting defense lawyers to find an attorney who can represent you. A shoplifting conviction can affect your ability to obtain employment, ability to gain or the suspension of a professional license, eligibility for federal loans, and the loss of immigration status, to name a few.
  1. When looking for a lawyer, be clear about the legal fees and legal strategies given your case. An experienced lawyer can employ a variety of legal defenses and strategies, depending on the unique circumstances of your case.

Before You Appear For Hearing

When you appear for hearing in the date provided in the DAT, it is recommended that you already have a lawyer and a plan of legal strategy in place.

Shoplifting lawyers have a number of legal defenses it can raise, depending on the case’s circumstances. First, the attorney can question the factual basis for the shoplifting arrest. Second, the attorney can question the legal basis for the shoplifting arrest.

Factual Basis

Examples of questions of fact are more conduct-related, such as:

  • Did you conceal the items in your body in a manner that is consistent with shoplifting (larcenous rather than innocent behavior)?
  • Did you pass the cash register at the time you were stopped for shoplifting?
  • Did you say anything to the security or police when you were stopped that is consistent with a person who is shoplifting?

In determining whether shoplifting was committed, the Court considers a customer’s exercise of control over the merchandise which should be wholly inconsistent with the store’s continued rights. It is a balance of a customer’s behavior, considering his limited right to deal with the merchandise, as opposed to the store owner’s rights. People v. Olivo, 52 N.Y.2d 301 (N.Y. 1981).

Legal Issues

Legal issues refer to whether you made a confession or admission to the police in violation of your rights, whether unnecessary or unreasonable force was exerted upon you during arrest that made any evidence obtained thereafter inadmissible, or whether there was probable cause to arrest you.

When You Appear For Hearing

Once you appear for hearing, your attorney can discuss with the prosecutor the available options, depending on the unique circumstances of your case.

If the value of the merchandise shoplifted was $100 or less, prosecutors will offer Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal and some form of public community service. There will be no criminal conviction, the case will be dismissed, and the records will be sealed in six months.

If the value of the merchandise shoplifted is between $101 to $500, the prosecutors may offer a Disorderly Conduct violation (a non-criminal violation that will not give you a criminal record). You must discuss with your shoplifting attorney whether taking this option is feasible because even if the records of the violation are sealed, it is possible that a background check for security clearance might cause the reappearance of the arrest record.

If the value of the merchandise shoplifted is between $500 to $1000, prosecutors may offer a lower level misdemeanor such as attempted petit larceny or attempted criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, which are “B” misdemeanors.

If the value of the merchandise shoplifted is above $1000, you may be charged for a felony. Shoplifting attorneys, however, have successful negotiated felonies to misdemeanors, violations, and ACDs, depending on the unique circumstances of your case.

If you are suspected of shoplifting, it is important that you seek the counsel of a shoplifting attorney immediately. You need adequate legal representation to help you navigate the rules of criminal procedure and in negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutors. Should you need assistance in defending a shoplifting charge, the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY, and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at attorneyalbertgoodwin@gmail.com.