Retail Theft and Shoplifting are the same offense.
Retail Theft is when a person goes into a store and takes an item without paying for the item.
How serious is Retail Theft?
Retail Theft is most often charged as a Class A Misdemeanor which means a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.00. Although this is the greatest punishment a court could sentence a person, it is very unlikely that a person charged with shoplifting will receive any jail time and have to pay any fine over $500.00. The larger concern a person should have is that pleading guilty to retail theft could cause a theft conviction to be on your record.
If the item claimed taken is of a greater value than $300, the case could be charged as a felony.
Is it possible to have a Retail Theft case dismissed?
Yes. For every theft case, no matter what the evidence is, I set the case for trial. Often the witnesses fail to show up, and the case is dismissed. The last three theft cases I handled were dismissed because of an issue with witnesses. If the witnesses do show up, I might still decide to go to trial. My client usually does not have to talk (testify) in court.
If the case is dismissed, will there be a record of my arrest?
Yes. Even if the case is dismissed, there is still a record that you were arrested. In order to remove all information about the arrest, you will have to file an Expungement with the court. If granted, every document created because of the arrest, your photo that the police took, your fingerprints, will be destroyed and there will be no records left of the event. An Expungement is also possible if you receive a sentence of court supervision, however, you will have to wait a longer period of time before you can file the Expungement.
If your Retail Theft case is not dismissed, what will happen if you’re found guilty?
Assuming this is your first offense, a court will likely grant you court supervision rather than a conviction. The court will also order you to pay a fine and you will not be allowed to re-enter that store again during the period of the court supervision. If the court convicts you of the offense, the fine may be higher. It is really important to have a good attorney helping you as you through this matter so that a conviction can be avoided.
If you receive a letter from a law firm asking you to pay to settle the case, should you pay it?
NO. This will not end the criminal case. They are trying to get you to send them money to settle the civil case. If you are found guilty of retail theft, in theory, the store could file a civil suit against you for their damages (if they have any). They never file a suit, as it costs too much compared to the cost of their attorney. However, they send you this threatening letter, from a law firm usually out of state. They have no intention of filing a lawsuit against you. This is simply a trick to get you to send them a few hundred dollars. Don’t give them a penny– it will not help your criminal case. DO NOT SEND THEM ANY MONEY. Save your money to hire a good criminal defense attorney.
For more specific information and to review the facts of your case, call Attorney Young for a free no-obligation consultation.