It is definitely possible to be arrested for shoplifting if you left the store without getting caught. This is possible even after you leave the store and were not caught. If you are accused of shoplifting, attorney Joseph Greenwald advises you to contact him for a free consultation as soon as possible. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, he understands how to prepare and defend shoplifting or theft charges.

What is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is when someone takes a piece of merchandise from a store without purchasing it. According to Louisiana state law, shoplifting involves any of the following:

  • Removing an item for sale or on display without paying for it
  • Stealing merchandise
  • Returning an item to a retailer who did not sell you the item and trying to get store credit or cash
  • Removing or changing a price tag in order to pay less than whatever the marked price is

Shoplifting can occur in any retail business, store, or establishment with merchandise for sale. 

Many establishments post surveillance cameras designed to capture footage of shoplifters. Just because you left the store without being caught does not mean you’re safe. In the event the store has footage of you shoplifting and you are identified in that footage, you could be charged. As long as they find it within the statute of limitations. The store might decide it’s not worth pursuing a case against you. That might be because the merchandise stolen was not worth a lot of money.

Avoid going back to the store after shoplifting without getting caught. The same employee that was working when you were shoplifting might be there and recognize you. There’s always the chance that they could put up your photos if they have footage of you from their security cameras. In addition, many shops share information about shoplifters to other businesses. The store where you shoplifted might do the same.

What do I do if the store or police contact me about shoplifting?

In some cases, a store will prosecute shoplifters without going through the police. Just because you were not arrested at the store, does not mean you won’t be charged. Sometimes it will take weeks or months for the store owner to file charges against you.

Next, the store will present evidence to the local police department. They will do this when they are ready to file charges. The police will refer the case to a prosecutor. That prosecutor will work with the court to issue you a citation, summons, or complaint. If it was a felony theft, you might receive an arrest warrant. 

In any case, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney at Greenwald Law Firm immediately. All of the next steps you take after shoplifting will be important. If you fail to appear in court on time, you might receive a bench warrant. This would lead to your arrest and complicate your case. 

Law enforcement officials will often offer plea deals in an attempt to get someone to admit guilt. Plea deals aren’t always a bad idea. But never simply accept the first offer you get. Always speak with an experienced defense attorney first. 

How long do the police have before I can be charged for shoplifting?

Each criminal offense has a corresponding statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the amount of time a prosecutor has to file charges against someone they think has committed a crime. Usually the clock starts soon as the crime is committed or discovered.

The statute of limitations for theft crimes in Louisiana are no different. However, there are some crimes in which the crime took a lot of time to discover. The law might delay the starting of the time clock or extend the statute of limitations. In this case, the statute of limitations for shoplifting starts on the date the theft is discovered, not on the day it was committed.  In Louisiana, the range for shoplifting is anywhere from 2 to 6 years.

After discovering the theft, the statute of limitations depends on the value of the goods stolen and the prior record of the shoplifter.

  • 2 years: Misdemeanor theft. 
    • This is for something less than $1,000 in value
  • 4 years: Felony theft
    • This is for theft involving items worth between $1,000 and $25,000
  • 6 Years: Felony theft
    • This is for something more than $25,000 in value
  • 6 years: armed robbery, first-degree robbery, and carjacking

In some cases, it might take weeks or even months for the store to file charges. This is due to the constraints of video footage. If the store caught you on camera, or a security guard saw you, it might take a while for the store to get a positive ID. In the event that the store does identify you, they will sometimes check for other instances of shoplifting. Next, they will go through their archives with facial recognition software. This will check to see if you were in the store on other occasions.

What are the penalties for shoplifting?

The penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the stolen goods. Do not forget that shoplifting is an enhanceable offense in Louisiana. This means that if you have been convicted before, your conviction this time will be more harsh. You could also face steeper fines. This is regardless of the value of the stolen goods. Jail time, fines and probation are all possible. 

These are the guidelines set by the state of Louisiana:

  • Value of goods less than $1,000
    • Possible sentence of imprisonment for up to 6 months, fine of up to $1,000, or both
  • Value of goods between $1,000 and $5,000
    • Sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $3,000, or both
  • Value of goods between $5,000 and $25,000
    • Sentence to imprisonment of up to 10 years, fine up to $10,000 or both.
  • Value of $25,000 or more
    • Sentence of imprisonment of up to 20 years, a fine of up to $50,000, or both

It’s important to know that these sentences and dollar amounts are only guidelines for sentencing. With an experienced criminal law attorney at Greenwald Law Firm, you may be able to negotiate a lower classification and punishment. Sometimes a lower penalty or classification won’t be possible. However, a good attorney should at the very least be able to work with the prosecution and judge to lessen your sentence.

Civil Court

Stores are also able to sue shoplifters in civil court for damages. In civil court, a person or entity sues another person or entity because of a dispute or problem between them. A business or agency can also file a case in civil court or be sued in civil court.  If someone loses a case in civil court, that person may be ordered to pay money to the other side or return property. However, the person does not go to jail just for losing the case. Damages can be awarded for the value of stolen items, as well as an additional penalty. The convicted shoplifter can face a civil penalty plus the value of the stolen goods. 

How long could my shoplifting conviction stay on my record?

Having a criminal record could negatively impact several areas of your life. It could affect your voting rights, gun rights, current or future job prospects, housing eligibility, credit score, and more.

In Louisiana, it might be possible to expunge your record. This means you can have the record erased or sealed.  You may expunge one misdemeanor conviction every five years (excluding DUIs). Felony convictions may only be expunged once every 15 years.

If you were arrested but not convicted of shoplifting, you may also apply for expungement. You must meet one or more of these conditions.

  • The statute of limitations passed before charges were brought
  • You were acquitted of the charges
  • The charges were dismissed
  • The district attorney decided not to prosecute
  • The court granted a motion to stop the charges

Many types of shoplifting charges are eligible for expungement. The experienced Louisiana defense attorneys at Weeden Law can guide you through the process of applying for expungement.

Whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor, you must take this case very seriously. Although you made a mistake by shoplifting, you don’t have to make a second one by not hiring a lawyer. Joseph Greenwald can help you build a case to protect your rights and reduce charges against you. We have been successful in having our clients’ charges dropped altogether on many occasions. Contact us to receive a free consultation today.

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