Birmingham Shoplifting Lawyer
Shoplifting may seem like an inconsequential matter at first, but a person who gets caught doing it can face serious penalties. Retailers who are dealing with tough economic times are cracking down on shoplifting and are more likely than ever to press charges.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, you need advice from an experienced theft attorney who has handled these kinds of cases before and who know the best strategies to use to defend your rights. A Birmingham shoplifting lawyer can help build your defense.
In Birmingham, shoplifting is a form of petty theft, specifically the theft of store merchandise. A person does not have to leave the store with the goods to be charged with the crime. Slipping an item into a pocket or bag can be enough to establish intent to steal. Placing the item under one’s clothing, or hiding it inside another item, will be enough of a “taking” to constitute theft.
Stores nowadays are more likely to have security cameras – often hidden from the customers’ line of sight – as well as security guards walking the premises, looking for the telltale signs of shoplifting.
An individual’s willingness to pay for an item after being apprehended will not defeat a charge of shoplifting. As long as the defendant intended to keep the item without paying when taking it, a criminal charge can be filed and a Birmingham shoplifting attorney should be consulted.
The difficulty of proving that intent can be the key to the accused person’s defense. Perhaps the person merely absent-mindedly placed the item inside of their clothing.
Another form of shoplifting is changing or removing price tags. These acts illustrate an intent to take money from the shopkeeper, by trying to pay less for the merchandise than its actual price.
The crime can be classified as grand theft if the merchandise is worth more than a specific amount specified in the statute. This may be relevant if the item was a piece of expensive jewelry, for example. However, in most cases, shoplifting will be considered petty theft, a misdemeanor.
Even a misdemeanor conviction can have heavy consequences. While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, a conviction for a crime of this type can lead to some jail time, perhaps as much as six months. Any kind of incarceration can be intensely disruptive of a person’s life and could well lead to loss of a job. Misdemeanors can also carry hefty fines and community service requirements. Additionally, these convictions may result in loss of privileges, such as professional licenses. A Birmingham shoplifting attorney’s help is essential to mitigate these penalties.
Depending on the circumstances, first-time offenders may have the option of “diversion,” a court-supervised program in which the defendant performs community service, undergoes counseling, and remains arrest-free for a period of time. A person who successfully completes the program can then have the charges dismissed.
The penalties get harsher for repeat offenders. If the defendant has a prior conviction for the same offense, a misdemeanor charge can be bumped up to a felony, which can mean prison sentences of one year or more. Skilled Birmingham shoplifting attorneys will listen to your story without judgment. They know that anyone can make a mistake. The important thing is that the client receives the protections they are entitled to under the Constitution.
Contacting a Birmingham Shoplifting Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to seek out advice from Birmingham shoplifting lawyers who have worked in the criminal courts for years, and who know how to work aggressively to defend your rights. Do not wait another day before getting that advice.