Criminal Elements of Shoplifting Offenses
Under Arizona law there are several ways that someone can commit shoplifting.
A.R.S. 13-1805. Shoplifting:
A person commits shoplifting if, while in an establishment in which merchandise is displayed for sale, the person knowingly obtains such goods of another with the intent to deprive that person of such goods by:
1. Removing any of the goods from the immediate display or from any other place within the establishment without paying the purchase price; or
2. Charging the purchase price of the goods to a fictitious person or any person without that person's authority; or
3. Paying less than the purchase price of the goods by some trick or artifice such as altering, removing, substituting or otherwise disfiguring any label, price tag or marking; or
4. Transferring the goods from one container to another; or
The prosecution must prove each element of the offense including that the theft was intentional.
Shoplifting is a class 1 misdemeanor, but if the value of the goods is over $1,000 or involves a firearm the offense may be charged as a felony.
In some circumstances a defendant may be charged with organized retail theft.
Shoplifting with the intent to resell or trade the merchandise for money or something of value, or concealing the items in the store with a container to remove the merchandise from the store is classified as organized retail theft.
Organized retail theft can be committed if the person is acting alone or with another person or accomplice. Organized retail theft is a class 4 felony offense.
Shoplifting Cases At Walmart
Walmart super centers are some of the largest retail stores in Northern Arizona. Walmart has a large number of foot traffic, departments, multiple store entrances and exits with so few cashiers it becomes a constant victim to petty theft.
The Walmart loss prevention department uses surveillance cameras, and under cover security personnel to detect shoplifters in its store.
If a shoplifter is suspected, the retail establishment may lawfully “detain on the premises in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time any person who is suspected of shoplifting”. A.R.S. 13-1805.
The Kingman Police Department is frequently called to question and arrest suspected shoplifters. Statements made by a suspected shoplifter to store personnel may be admissible in court even without any previous “Miranda Warnings” being given. Store surveillance videos may be obtained by the police and used in court for any subsequent prosecution.
Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting
Shoplifting in Arizona is a class 1 misdemeanor is punishable up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A convicted defendant may be placed on supervised or unsupervised probation. Someone who is charged with or convicted of shoplifting may be ineligible for a fingerprint clearance card under A.R.S. 41-1758.07. A pending shoplifting charge or conviction can make someone ineligible for positions such as teachers, real estate agents, and nurses when a background check is performed.
Civil Liabilities for Shoplifting
Suspects that are arrested for shoplifting may be subjected to civil liability under A.R.S. 13-1805. A retail establishment may sue someone in civil court for damages equal to the value of the goods obtained (whether stolen or recovered) in addition to a $250 penalty. A minor accused of shoplifting may face a $100 penalty.
12-691. Civil liability for shoplifting; adult; emancipated minor
An adult or emancipated minor who commits shoplifting as defined by section 13-1805 is civilly liable to the owner of the obtained goods for all of the following:
1. A penalty in the amount of the retail value of the obtained goods.
2. For an adult, an additional penalty of at least two hundred fifty dollars but not more than two hundred fifty dollars plus the actual damages to the owner.
3. For an emancipated minor, an additional penalty of at least one hundred dollars but not more than one hundred dollars plus the actual damages to the owner.
A demand letter is usually sent by the corporation headquarters or a law firm representing the merchant to demand these amounts. These are only demand letters. To legally collect these amounts the merchant must file a civil lawsuit to obtain a judgment against an accused shoplifter.
Most merchants also issue a formal trespass letter to a suspected shoplifter. If the person goes inside the retail merchant establishment in the future they may be criminally charged with a trespass offense.
What are the Defenses to Shoplifting?
The government and the prosecution must prove that any shoplifting offense was committed as an intentional act. It is a defense to shoplifting accusation if the removal of the merchandise from the retailer was inadvertent or an accident.
The government must prove each case beyond a reasonable doubt. A suspected shoplifter is entitled to a trial and has the right to confront any witnesses or accusers called by the State. The government must disclose or release any witnesses, witness statements, exhibits or video surveillance they intend to use at trial.
A shoplifting suspect is always presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Defenses may be used at trial, but most often are raised during plea negotiations to get criminal charges or jail time dismissed or reduced.
The lack of any prior shoplifting or criminal offenses is often cited as a mitigating circumstance to negotiate a favorable plea agreement for a client or to obtain a diversion.
Contact An Attorney
It is important that you consult with an attorney if you are ever charged with a shoplifting offense.
You have a right to legal counsel to protect your rights. A criminal defense attorney works to help get your charges dismissed or reduced to avoid any harsh criminal sentence.