A Complete Guide on What to Do If You’ve Been Charged With Retail Theft
Have you been recently charged with a shoplifting crime and are unsure what to do about it? Are you worried about how the process will lay out? If so, then you need to learn more about what to do if you’ve been charged with retail theft.
Doing so can help you better understand the process and what you can do to give yourself the bests odds of reaching a favorable outcome. More importantly, you won’t have to go up against the prosecutor alone.
See below for an in-depth guide highlighting what you should do if you’ve been charged with retail theft.
Why You Should Hire a Retail Theft Lawyer
Whether it was justified or not, you’ve been charged with retail theft. There are two paths that you can choose here: 1) accept the blame and all the harsh consequences of it or 2) seek professional help and attempt to reach a favorable outcome.
Far too many people make the unwise decision of representing themselves in court. They do so in an attempt to save money and still attempt to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
However, doing so will land you in a world of hurt. Prosecutors don’t often take the time to consider a plea bargain with someone that doesn’t have legal representation.
You can’t hope to reach a desirable outcome without a retail theft lawyer. You’ll be pitting yourself up against a prosecution team that’s trained in the rules and regulations of criminal law.
To combat that, be sure to find criminal defense lawyers that you can trust. They will help you build your case, compile evidence, and give you strict instructions that you can follow to heighten your chance of a favorable result.
Take the time to find the right fit. Be sure that the lawyer you hire specializes in criminal defense, preferably retail theft.
What Is Considered a Retail Theft?
The answer depends on what state you were charged with the retail theft crime, not the state that you live in (if there’s a difference).
Contrary to popular belief, a retail theft crime isn’t limited to when a person is caught walking out of a store with an item. In fact, the definition of “retail theft” might surprise you.
Illinois defines shoplifting in several scenarios. It can be charged if you’re caught with a theft detection shield gadget, removing or changing price tags/labels, or acting as if you already own the item.
You can also be charged with retail theft if your a cashier that under-rings an item (charges less than the established price). It’s also considered theft if you move an item from its original package to a different one.
If you’ve already been charged with the retail theft crime, then you must remain honest with your lawyer. Tell them the entire story and don’t leave any details out.
They can only truly help you if they know everything that happened. Remember, everything that you tell them is legally protected by the client-attorney privilege.
What Are the Possible Penalties and Sentences?
Again, the charges for retail theft depend on the state that you were charged in. Some states, such as Illinois, takes it more seriously than others.
In Illinois, shoplifting is a criminal defense that can be separated into 4 separate classes. One for a misdemeanor charge, three for a felony charge. The charge depends on the value of what was stolen, whether you’ve been charged with it before, etc.
Believe it or not, you can potentially serve jail time for any amount that was stolen, which is another reason why you should hire a retail theft lawyer right away.
You could wind up serving anywhere between 1 to 5 years of prison time, depending on the amount that was stolen, and be charged with up to $25,000 in fines.
Since you’ve been charged with a shoplifting crime, you have no other choice but to fight it or accept the harsh charges.
What to Do When Initially Charged
Remember this: if you’re ever charged with retail theft, don’t say anything or sign anything that the store gives you. Doing so can be used as evidence against your case down the line.
They’ll try to act as if they’re your friend. They’ll try saying things and making verbal promises to get you to admit you’ve committed a crime. Don’t fall for it.
As uncomfortable as it may be, avoid confessing at all costs. Don’t say anything until the police arrive and, when they do, remain silent and ask to speak with a lawyer. Remember your Miranda rights.
How to Gather Evidence
Evidence will be hard to come by without a retail theft attorney. They have resources and connections that you don’t have readily available to you to gather evidence.
You can hire an attorney and let them get to work on compiling evidence for your case. The best evidence that you have is a true story.
Be sure to write down as many details of the event as possible. What store were you in? Where in the store were you? What did they claim you stole? What time was it? Who was with you? That way, you can use your notes as a reference when you tell your lawyer the story for the first time.
Fight Your Retail Theft Charges to the End
Now that you have seen an in-depth guide on retail theft and how you should approach things moving forward, be sure to use this information to your advantage.
Take the time to find the right lawyer for the job. Search online reviews to see who previous clients recommend near you.
Be sure to browse our website for more articles on shoplifting charges, as well as many other helpful topics.