What Can You Do If You’ve Been Charged with Shoplifting?
Being charged with shoplifting is an embarrassing experience that can leave a person’s reputation in tatters. Over the years, retailers have become quite aggressive when it comes to loss prevention. It’s easy to understand why – in 2012, shoplifters cost American businesses $12.1 billion. Unfortunately, some retailers are so focused on stopping shoplifting, they falsely accuse people of stealing. In other cases, like a recent case in Virginia, their employees resort to tackling a shopper to the ground after suspecting a theft.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, it’s important to understand the seriousness of the crime you’re facing. Besides criminal penalties, you may also face a civil lawsuit from the retailer. Clearing the charges and restoring your good name has never been more important. This is where an experienced Alabama theft crime lawyer can help.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Alabama
In the majority of cases, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime. This is the case when a theft involves property with a value of $500 or less. When teens and juveniles are involved in shoplifting cases, they typically face a misdemeanor charge.
When the property involved has a high value, however, the accused can be charged with a felony. Individuals who steal property valued at more than $2,500 can face a first degree theft charge, which is a Class B felony. The penalties include fines of up to $30,000 and up to 20 years in prison. In many cases, a defendant must also pay restitution to the victim of the crime.
Some people assume they will not face harsh penalties for shoplifting, either because it is their first offense, or because they stole something with a nominal value. They attempt to save money by going without an attorney in their case. In many cases, these individuals are surprised when a judge orders them to spend time in jail. Even a few days in jail can be an uncomfortable experience. If you can’t report to work because you are serving time in jail, you could even lose your job. A conviction can also leave you with a permanent criminal record that makes it hard to further your career, get into college programs, and even buy a car. If your work requires you to hold a professional license, a shoplifting conviction could put your entire career in jeopardy.
Why You Need a Lawyer
The alternative – hiring an experienced lawyer – is a much better option. Depending on the court handling your case, you may qualify for a type of deferred prosecution called a pretrial intervention. This gives first offenders an opportunity to avoid a criminal record as long as they avoid all criminal activity for a certain period of time. Few criminal defendants have the knowledge or experience to negotiate this type of agreement with the court – and why would they? Most people don’t have the skills or training to handle their own surgeries. Like everyone else, they see an experienced physician. Unless you’re a mechanic, you also probably wouldn’t attempt to repair your own car. The same is true for criminal defense. Don’t risk your entire future by assuming you can handle your case on your own.
Birmingham Theft Defense Law Firm
Whether you’re facing your first offense or your fifth, shoplifting is a serious crime. Courts can be quite harsh when it comes to handing down sentences for all types of theft. This is the time to call a knowledgeable Birmingham theft defense law firm.