Five defense strategies against shoplifting cases

Griffin Law, PLLC
May 31, 2023

Shoplifting, a common crime that involves stealing goods from retail stores, has serious legal consequences. When caught, individuals may face potential fines, jail time and a criminal record. However, the accused can employ some defense strategies to challenge these charges and protect themselves.

Here are some of the common defenses used in shoplifting cases.

  • Asserting lack of intent: In these cases, the accused claims they did not intentionally take the item without paying for it. They might argue that they simply forgot to pay or mistakenly left the store with the item. Proving a lack of intent can weaken the prosecution’s case and potentially lead to a dismissal of charges.
  • Claiming mistaken identity: Occurs when the accused asserts that authorities have wrongly identified them as the person who committed the crime. They may argue that they were present in the store but did not engage in any shoplifting activities. Providing evidence such as surveillance footage or witness testimonies can support this defense.
  • Challenging the reliability of the store’s surveillance systems: This defense questions the quality of the footage, the visibility of the accused or the possibility of tampering. Suppose the defense was able to raise doubts about the accuracy of the evidence. In that case, it can create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury or judge. It may potentially lead to an acquittal.
  • Employing a “lack of knowledge” strategy: This defense argues that the accused was unaware they had taken the item without paying for it. They may claim that the item was concealed or hidden in a way that prevented them from noticing it. Establishing a lack of knowledge can be challenging, but it can be supported by presenting evidence of distraction or confusion at the time of the incident.
  • Questioning the legality of the search or arrest: They may also argue that the officers violated their constitutional rights during the investigation. If this is the case, the evidence obtained might be deemed inadmissible in court. This defense can be effective when law enforcement officers overstep their boundaries or conduct an unreasonable search.

It is essential to note that shoplifting laws and defense strategies vary by jurisdiction.

Shoplifting laws in North Carolina

Last year, North Carolina and other states stiffened their shoplifting laws and implemented harsher penalties. In the state, the law classifies shoplifting as a form of larceny. It is a crime to intentionally take merchandise from a store without paying for it. It may be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the stolen goods. Misdemeanor larceny applies when the value is less than $1,000, while felony larceny involves goods valued at $1,000 or more.

Shoplifting is a crime that should not be encouraged or condoned. However, individuals accused of shoplifting have the right to a fair defense. By consulting with a defense attorney and exploring viable defense strategies, it is possible to protect one’s rights and potentially minimize the consequences associated with shoplifting accusations.

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