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Shoplifting may seem like a minor crime; however, regardless of whether it’s your first or fifth offense, a conviction can have a dramatic impact on your life. In some cases, a shoplifting conviction may even mean you end up with a felony on your criminal record. At the Law Offices of James E. Novak, our Phoenix criminal defense attorney aggressively defends clients charged with shoplifting and other theft offenses. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Novak knows what it takes to beat a shoplifting case so his clients can move past their arrest and on with their lives.

Shoplifting in Arizona

Shoplifting, also sometimes referred to as retail theft, involves stealing good from a retail store. Arizona’s shoplifting law is contained in Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1805, and provides that it is against the law to knowingly obtain goods belonging to another person or business with the intent to deprive them of their ownership interest.

In the classic shoplifting example, someone walks out of a store with an item tucked into their pants or stored in their purse. However, there are several ways that the law prohibits shoplifting. Under Arizona law, the following are all considered types of shoplifting:

  • Concealing an item while inside a store;
  • Charging the price of goods to a fictitious person or to a person without their authority; or
  • Paying less than the purchase price for goods by switching or altering price tags.
Presumptions in Arizona Shoplifting Cases

Shoplifting is a specific intent crime, meaning that you are only guilty of shoplifting if the government can prove that you intended to steal. However, Arizona lawmakers know that jurors cannot see what defendants are thinking so they included several presumptions in the shoplifting statute.

A presumption is an inference that a certain fact is true based on the existence of other facts. For example, there is a presumption that if you conceal an item while inside of a retail store you had the intent to steal the item. The other presumption in shoplifting cases is that if you use some type of tool to manipulate the goods, such as by opening the packaging with a knife, you intended to steal them. Those facing shoplifting charges need to be aware of these presumptions because otherwise you could find yourself thinking you have great shoplifting defense when you don’t in reality.

Presumptions exist for a few reasons. First, they allow store owners to stop a shoplifter without needing to wait until they leave the store (at which point the chance of catching them goes down to almost zero). And second, presumptions make it easier for the government to prove its case by allowing prosecutors to foreclose the “it was a mistake” defense.

Just to be clear, an honest mistake is a defense to a shoplifting charge. You cannot be convicted of shoplifting if you accidentally removed items from the store. This goes back to the fact that shoplifting is a specific intent crime—if you accidentally take items out of the shop, you didn’t intend to steal them.

Can Employees Stop a Shoplifter in Arizona?

Yes, under the Arizona shoplifting statute, an employee may detain someone they have reason to believe committed a shoplifting offense, provided they do so in a reasonable manner and only for a reasonable amount of time. Typically, an employee can ask questions or call the police, but not hold a suspected shoplifter indefinitely. It is important to keep in mind that trying to escape from an employee’s detention can result in additional charges, such as robbery or assault.

Are You Facing Arizona Shoplifting Charges?

If you were recently arrested for shoplifting, reach out to the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Phoenix criminal defense lawyer with decades of experience handling all types of theft charges on behalf of his clients. Aside from being a skilled litigator, he is also a savvy negotiator, and routinely obtains favorable plea agreements for those clients who want to resolve their case without a trial. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.

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