How a Lawyer Can Help Fight Shoplifting Charges

security camera

You pushed the limits of authority. You gave in to a compulsion. You got distracted by a cell phone call. Your child acted while you weren’t looking. There are all kinds of reasons Connecticut residents end up facing criminal charges for shoplifting. No matter what happened, a lawyer can help fight shoplifting charges and get your life back on track.

Shoplifting Laws in Connecticut

Connecticut’s shoplifting law falls in the category of larceny or theft offenses. Like any other type of theft, shoplifting involves the intentional taking of property belonging to someone else -- in this case a retail store or commercial seller. The legal definition of shoplifting may be broader than you think. It can apply anywhere you would buy goods -- even a flea market. The law covers criminal charges that a person intentionally:

  • Removed goods from a store without paying for them
  • Concealed merchandise within or outside the store intending not to pay for them
  • Swapped, changed, or defaced price tags while in the store or paid that lower price
  • Failed to scan items or passed points of sale without paying for everything in the cart or bag

Connecticut law breaks shoplifting and other types of larceny down according to the value of the items taken. If you have been accused of shoplifting, you may be arrested right away or receive a summons charging you with larceny in a specific degree. That degree determines the maximum penalty you will face:

  • Sixth degree larceny (a class C misdemeanor) -- for property totaling $500 or less -- has a penalty of up to 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Fifth degree larceny (a class B misdemeanor) -- for property totaling $500 to $1,000 -- has a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Fourth degree larceny (a class A misdemeanor) -- for property totaling $1,000 to $2,000 -- has a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Third degree larceny (a class D felony) -- for property totaling $2,000 to $10,000 -- has a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Second degree larceny (a class C felony) -- for property totaling $10,000 to $20,000 -- has a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • First degree larceny (a class B felony) -- for property totalling more than $20,000 -- has a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Why Someone Accused of Shoplifting Needs to Hire a Lawyer

Being accused of shoplifting in Connecticut doesn’t mean you are automatically going to face consequences. But you are going to need help fighting a shoplifting charge. The increased use of security cameras, RFID detectors, and other anti-theft devices can make it difficult to defeat claims that you tried to steal from a store. However, whether you were wrongfully targeted, or got caught in the act, you should still hire a criminal defense lawyer to help you investigate your defenses, and consider alternatives to conviction.

Common Defenses to Shoplifting

Shoplifting charges in Connecticut have very specific requirements. Often, there are problems with how the shop security or police handled the case that can create misdemeanor or felony shoplifting defenses. Here are some common defenses to shoplifting:

Mistaken Identity

When the prosecutor’s case rests on a surveillance video with poor resolution, or photos that only show part of a person’s face, your criminal defense attorney may be able to create reasonable doubt that the prosecutor is charging the right person with the crime. Even eyewitness testimony can be vulnerable to cases of mistaken identity.

Missing Intent

You’ve seen the word “intentional” a few times in this post already. That’s because shoplifting charges in Connecticut must show the person meant to take the property. Sometimes that intent can be presumed (assumed) based on a person’s actions -- like tucking merchandise in a purse or under a jacket. However, in other cases, a child may have grabbed an item when the parent wasn’t looking, an item may have fallen off the shelf, or a phone call may have distracted the person while they checked out. In all these cases, a criminal defense attorney may be able to show the required intent was missing.

Overstated Value

Another common shoplifting defense has to do with which degree of larceny was charged. Shop owners will often overstate the value of the items taken, or may not offset the cost of items actually paid for. When that happens, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to show that a lower degree of larceny is more appropriate.

Avoiding a Shoplifting Conviction Through Diversionary Programs

Even if you don’t think you have a defense to the shoplifting charges against you, you may qualify for the Connecticut Accelerated Rehabilitation Diversionary Program (AR program). This program allows first-time offenders to perform community service, pay restitution, and meet other court requirements to avoid having a conviction on their record. Most larceny offenses meet the eligibility requirements for the AR program. Whether you can apply will depend on your criminal history and the specific circumstances in your case.

If you are facing Connecticut shoplifting charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to review your options, identify defenses, and fight against a conviction. Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, The Lebedevitch Law Firm works closely with people facing shoplifting charges in Fairfield and New Haven counties. We will help you defend your criminal record and keep you from facing unnecessary consequences. Contact us for a free phone or video conference consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense, Theft