Shoplifting Defenses

Tempe Lawyers for Shoplifting Defenses

Shoplifting can be a serious charge depending on the value of what was taken. Retail stores often have surveillance tapes and security agents. In order to detain you, the security agent must have reasonable cause. The police may be called quickly; you should ask to speak to a lawyer. Arizona prosecutors take shoplifting seriously, and convictions can have an impact that reverberates into sentencing for future offenses with which you’re charged. If you were charged with shoplifting, you should call the seasoned Tempe theft attorney James E. Novak. Mr. Novak is a former prosecutor who may be able to look at your specific situation and build your defense accordingly.


You can be charged with shoplifting if you go into a Tempe business and knowingly remove merchandise or alter it with the intent of depriving the business of the merchandise. Under A.R.S. section 13-1805, someone commits shoplifting if they: (1) knowingly, (2) obtain the goods of another, (3) intending to deprive the person of goods. Deprivation of goods could occur through the removal of goods from the immediate display or any other place within the establishment without paying a purchase price. It could also occur if you charged the purchase price to a fictitious person. You could also be charged if you paid less than the purchase price through a trick or artifice such as by removing, substituting, disfiguring, or otherwise altering or by transferring goods from one container to another. Concealment can also be shoplifting.

Felony theft occurs when you perpetrate a theft, and the value of goods is more than $1000. You could face prison time. Shoplifting is a class 4 felony when: (1) you used a device, instrument or container intending to facilitate the shoplifting or (2) you have two prior theft, shoplifting, robbery, or burglary priors within the last five years. Shoplifting is a class 5 felony when you shoplift (1) more than $2000 in merchandise, (2) in furtherance of gang activity, or (3) you shoplifted three times in 90 days and the merchandise’s total value was at least $1500.

Shoplifting Defenses

You should not assume that a conviction for shoplifting is assured when you’ve been charged. There may be defenses our attorneys can raise. In some cases, these can give rise to acquittal. In other cases, however, we may be able to use similar strategies to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors in which you’d plead guilty to misdemeanor shoplifting, in exchange for dismissal of the felony charge, which would result in incarceration if you were convicted.

All crimes, including shoplifting must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, the best defense is one that raises reasonable doubt about one or more elements. For instance, we might be able to show you didn’t have a culpable state of mind; this would be an appropriate defense if you walked out of the store to chase after your toddler and bring the item in question back.

Generally, a person is presumed to have the needed mental state for culpability if he knowingly conceals on himself or someone else unbought merchandise of any store while inside the store or uses an instrument or artifice or device to facilitate the shoplifting. However, it may be appropriate to show any concealment wasn’t knowing, but inadvertent.

Another potential defense is establishing that the value of the item is not what the prosecutor believes it to be, and that, therefore, you should not be charged with the particular class of misdemeanor or felony. For instance, if the prosecutor charges you with felony shoplifting and your lawyer can show the goods were only $900, not $1000 as claimed, the prosecutor wouldn’t be able to make its case for felony shoplifting.

Retain an Experienced Shoplifting Defense Attorney

If you need a strong defense to shoplifting, it is important to consult experienced Tempe lawyer James E. Novak. As a former prosecutor, he understands how to raise reasonable doubt or otherwise develop the strongest available defense strategies for those accused of shoplifting in Phoenix, as well as Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

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