A criminal conviction for shoplifting/retail theft in Ogden can range from a class B misdemeanor (180 days jail) to a second-degree felony (1-15 years prison). Typically, the level of charge is determined by the value of the merchandise involved; but the level of a charge can also be increased based on prior theft-related convictions.
What constitutes retail theft/shoplifting?
Under the sections of the Utah Criminal code governing retail theft (shoplifting), there are several alternate grounds under which a person can be charged with criminal retail theft. Most cases involve accusations that a person took “merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment” with “the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use, or benefit of such merchandise without paying the retail value of” the merchandise taken or possessed.
Most of the time, this means that police or the prosecutor have alleged that you took something from a store without paying for it. But contrary to popular belief, you do not have to leave the store with an item to be charged with retail theft or shoplifting. Simply removing an item from its packaging, hiding an item in your jacket or bag, or changing price tags can lead to criminal charges of retail theft – if there is evidence that you had the intent to deprive the merchant of the merchandise without paying retail value for it. Other actions that can lead to charges of retail theft are a clerk “under-ringing” merchandise for someone else, switching price tags, or taking a shopping cart from the store premises.
What should I do if I am caught shoplifting in Ogden?
Perhaps what is most important is what you should NOT do. DO NOT struggle if you are caught shoplifting. DO NOT struggle to get away. DO NOT struggle against store employees if they attempt to detain you. DO NOT push an employee out of the way if they approach you. Any of these actions could potentially turn a relatively minor shoplifting charge into a serious felony robbery case.
Utah criminal law states, “any merchant who has probable cause to believe that a person has committed retail theft may detain such person, on or off the premises of a retail mercantile establishment, in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time. . . .” The use of any force against a store employee or other person while either committing a retail theft, or attempting to flee after committing a retail theft, could lead to charges of robbery. Robbery charges start as a second-degree felony punishable by 1-15 years in prison. In some instances, you could even be charged with aggravated robbery which has the potential sentence of life in prison. If allegations are made that a weapon was used in the course of committing the robbery, aggravated robbery charges can result in a life prison sentence.
If detained on the suspicion of shoplifting, it is important that you not resist physically. But it is also important that you are NOT required in any way to make any statements or admissions or answer any questions relating to your conduct.
Neither an employee, store security guard, nor police officer can force you to answer questions about a criminal allegation of shoplifting. A police officer can require you to give your name. But the Fifth Amendment, provides the privilege against self-incrimination (the right to remain silent). You are not legally obligated to offer any explanation or statement for your actions.
If convicted of retail theft in an Ogden court, what can I expect?
Criminal Defense Attorney StrategyFor merchandise valued at less than $500 retail theft charges begin as a class B misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of 180 days. As the value of the merchandise increases, so does the potential penalty. For merchandise valued at $5,000 or more, the charge can be filed as a second-degree felony with potential prison time of up to 15 years. Retail theft is also considered an “enhanceable” offense. If you have been previously convicted of theft or theft-related offenses, then the penalties can be increased.
Not every person convicted of retail theft or shoplifting will spend time in jail. In some cases, a conviction can be avoided through a negotiated plea-in-abeyance agreement. In other cases, a jury trial may result in a not-guilty verdict. Even if a person is convicted of shoplifting, probation may provide an alternative to jail or prison time.
Consultation with an experienced defense attorney can help you better understand your options and what strategies might best help you get the results you need in your Ogden shoplifting case. Contact us now to see how we can help you.