Perhaps you didn’t realize you left an item in your cart without paying for it. Maybe you absentmindedly put a small item of merchandise in your pocket as a reflex like you do with your own personal items. Whatever the case, while shoplifting may seem like a small offense, it is still a big deal as a theft charge. This can mean you are labeled as a shoplifter, tarnishing your name.
Retail theft charges like these can have consequences that follow you for the rest of your life. With a theft conviction, you could receive jail time, steep fines, and have trouble finding gainful employment down the road.
What Is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting crimes involve knowingly taking merchandise from a store without paying for it. According to Colorado criminal law, a shoplifter must be shown to have intended to permanently deprive the store owner of the merchandise without having expressed permission of the store owner to take those items.
Under Colorado theft laws, shoplifting crimes are a form of theft. You may face shoplifting charges if you physically take items from a store without paying for them. You may also face these charges if you return an item that you didn’t buy to a store to get money or credit, which is known as a fraudulent return.
Additionally, you can’t alter price tags, labels, or packaging to pay less for any item. One of the most obvious forms of shoplifting is when someone conceals merchandise, which may be construed as intent to steal.
What Is Required to Convict Someone of a Shoplifting Charge?
A Colorado prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant intended to permanently take property from another party. They must also prove that it was intentionally taken and kept without permission. Another key ingredient in shoplifting cases is that the defendant threatened, deceived, or acted without authorization to take possession of this property.
What Happens If You Get Charged With Shoplifting in Denver?
If you receive Colorado shoplifting charges, you may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program. The state may feel that you could benefit from this diversion, allowing you to avoid a conviction. You may still be required to pay a fine and restitution, do community service, or take a class.
Often, this diversion program is extended to first-time shoplifters. With the successful completion of it and its requirements, your shoplifting charges will be dismissed and you will avoid jail time.
However, if this option is not offered, you may face shoplifting penalties in Colorado. The punishment for shoplifting will depend on the price of the stolen items. For example, if you steal less than $300 worth of goods, this is considered a petty offense. With a petty offense for shoplifting convictions, you may face up to 10 days in jail as well as up to $300 in fines.
Your criminal charges become more severe if you steal goods that are valued at $300 but under $2,000. This is considered a misdemeanor shoplifting case with up to 364 days in jail as well as the possibility for up to $1,000 in fines.
Felony theft charges are applied when shoplifting in Colorado if the stolen goods are worth $2,000 or more. You may receive anywhere from one to 24 years in Colorado state prison plus fines that could range from $1,000 to $1,000,000. You will also be ordered to pay restitution to the store from which you shoplifted.
How Can I Defend Myself from Colorado Shoplifting Charges?
Since the criminal penalties in Colorado shoplifting incidents can affect the rest of your life, you will want to fight the criminal charges brought against you. An experienced defense attorney may be able to help you with these potential defenses to avoid the penalties for shoplifting.
No Intent to Steal
In many shoplifting cases, the defendants facing charges had no intent to steal. If you simply forgot to pay, or someone planted merchandise on you, your attorney can prove that you innocently left the store without the intent to steal the item in question. In this case, the D.A. may dismiss your case.
Shoplifting Did Not Occur
Other times, stores will try to claim you stole goods but a shoplifting did not occur. You can show that you paid by submitting your receipt. Eyewitness testimony, a solid alibi, and video surveillance footage can also be helpful.
Sometimes, cashiers forget to remove the theft detection devices which trigger the sensors at the entry and exit areas of the stores. As long as you paid the full price in exchange for those items, it should result in charges dropped.
All law enforcement officers need probable cause to perform a search when they think someone is concealing merchandise. If the police or a security guard found this merchandise by performing an illegal search, the court may dismiss this evidence, leaving too weak a case for the D.A. to prosecute.
In order to convict someone of suspected shoplifting, the prosecution is always the one that bears that burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for items stolen. If it can’t present evidence that is adequate or reliable, the case may be thrown out along with your shoplifting charge.
How Long Will Shoplifting in Colorado Stay on My Record?
If you are accused of shoplifting and convicted, this will stay on your record permanently unless the record is sealed. All shoplifting convictions may be sealable with the exception of class 2 or class 3 felonies.
For petty offense convictions for stolen property, they may be sealed one year after your case ends. With class 2 misdemeanor and class 3 misdemeanor convictions, these can be sealed two years after the case ends. If you have a class 1 misdemeanor theft conviction or class 4, 5, or 6 felony convictions with shoplifting, your record can be sealed three years after your case ends. Cases that get dismissed are sealed right away.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help You?
Most cases regarding receiving stolen property are handled before a trial begins when you work with a lawyer. If your charges are not dismissed, you may be able to make a plea deal. However, it is imperative that you work with an attorney to help you navigate the legal process.
The state of Colorado needs to prove you shoplifted beyond a reasonable doubt. You could have mistaken the item in question for one that you actually own, or even walked out of the store with an item by accident. In other cases, you may have been misidentified for someone else.
If you make a plea deal and you in no way intended to shoplift, you may have a conviction on your record when in reality, it was a series of mistakes that led to your arrest.
Why Choosing a Good Defense Attorney Can Clear Your Name
If you are facing a shoplifting charge, you need a reputable criminal defense lawyer in Denver that is experienced in handling shoplifting cases. You can use the free initial consultation to review your case and learn more about your legal options.
Your future and your freedom is at stake. While it may seem like a simple misunderstanding that you think you can clear on your own, you may soon find things spiral out of control.
Good representation will ensure that the prosecution doesn’t have a leg to stand on when trying to convict you of charges that they can’t prove. Those that have retained proper legal representation have had greater success in avoiding conviction for their alleged crimes.
You must first learn your legal options in your unique situation and see where to go from there. If you have been accused of shoplifting in Colorado, you must speak with an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney like those at Weber Law. Doing so can make it much more likely that the case will be dismissed or your charges dropped, allowing you to avoid penalties and keep this incident from ruining your record.