coulter law office in lafayette indiana can defend you against theft charges

It’s the holiday season, which officially means last-minute gift shopping. As you begrudgingly head toward the mall, you already know which stores you need to visit. After getting jostled around, paying full-price, and listening to the same Christmas songs on infinite repeat, you finally see something that turned your once boring mall visit into something…interesting.

At the last store you visited, you witnessed a woman slip an item into her purse and then vanish amongst the crowd—no alarms ringing, no angry cashiers yelling, no one noticing at all! As you blink to make sure it wasn’t just an illusion, you begin to wonder—how often does shoplifting happen, and what are the punishments for shoplifting in Lafayette, Indiana?

What is Shoplifting?

In the state of Indiana, shoplifting and theft are considered the same thing. Theft is the act of knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person, with intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use.

IN Code § 35-43-4-2 (2017)

What Punishments Are Associated with Shoplifting?

bryan coulter provides criminal defense in lafayette indiana

When it comes to shoplifting, the severity of the punishment is usually related to past convictions and the dollar amount of the stolen property. Here is a list of possible penalties:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: The property stolen was valued at less than $750. Punishments can include a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Level 6 Felony: The property stolen was valued between $750 – $49,999. Punishments can include a minimum of 180 days in jail and up to 2 ½ years in a correctional facility.
  • Level 5 Felony: The property stolen had a value of $50,000 or more. Punishments can include up to 6 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

In addition to the punishments listed above, civil penalties also exist. Shoplifters can receive a demand letter from a merchant that requests that they pay for civil damages. With a demand letter, shoplifters could be liable to pay up to 3x the damages as well as other costs like attorney fees and lawsuit expenses.

Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

a criminal defense attorney in lafayette indiana can help reduce your fines and jail time

If someone is accused of shoplifting in Lafayette, Indiana, their best course of action would be to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney. Criminal lawyers can expertly review a case and find flaws in the prosecution’s argument. Listed below are a number of common defenses that criminal attorneys use when defending shoplifters.

  • Witness Testimonial: Many prosecutors use the testimonials of witnesses—whether they be employees or patrons who were in the store. A criminal lawyer can question the witness and gather details to try and refute the identity of the suspect.
  • Intent to Steal: In order to convict someone of shoplifting, there must be an intent to steal. Sometimes taking a possession from a store can occur incidentally, such as when a person is trying on multiple articles of clothing or pieces of jewelry. Without an intent to steal something, the charges are invalid.
  • Refute Possible Evidence: When witness testimonials or video surveillance is used, it leaves room for criminal defense attorneys to look for flaws or inconsistencies. Possible inconsistencies include: lack of credibility of the witness, racial bias, difficult to decipher surveillance, and more.
  • Duress: A criminal lawyer would have to prove that the defendant faced immediate danger through threat or physical force if they did not commit the actions that they did.
  • Necessity: Under the defense of necessity, a criminal attorney must prove that the individual committed the criminal act in an emergency situation to avoid further harm from happening.
  • Consent: The defense of consent can be used when a defendant was given permission to do or take something. In the case of shoplifting, consent can be the store clerk telling the suspect that he or she could take something without paying.

How Can I Get Started with Criminal Defense Help?   

If you need help with your shoplifting case, contact Bryan Coulter, a criminal defense attorney in Lafayette, Indiana with over a decade of experience. He will review your case, discuss with you the challenges, and provide a strong defense. Call (765) 423-2888 for more information.