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Can I be charged with shoplifting in Utah for something my friend stole?

If you are in a store with a friend, and your friend steals something, you run a real risk of being charged with retail theft (shoplifting).  Depending on the circumstances, under Utah law retail theft can be filed as a minor misdemeanor or a felony charge carrying potential prison time.

In Utah prosecutions for retail theft, there are several ways that a person can be charged with a crime for something that someone else actually stole.  Utah law contains a provision under which you may be prosecuted for the conduct of another person if you acted intending to help, encourage, request, or otherwise assist another person in committing a crime.  Under Utah law, this kind of criminal responsibility is sometimes called "party" liability or "accomplice" liability.

For example, if police were convinced that you helped a friend conceal merchandise so that your friend could steal it, you could be charged with shoplifting.  If police believed that you were acting as a lookout so that a friend could sneak merchandise out of the store undetected, you could be charged with shoplifting.

If you are charged under Utah's accomplice liability (party liability) statute, you can be charged with exactly the same crime and level of offense that the principle actor is charged with.  Of course, just being charged with a crime does not mean that you are guilty.  Utah's accomplice liability statute requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with the intention of somehow assisting or contributing to the other person's criminal conduct.  If you are in a store with a friend, and you are not aware that your friend has stolen anything, then you are not guilty of a crime.

If you have been charged with a crime in Utah for something that someone else did, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.  Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has successfully defended clients in cases ranging from homicide to shoplifting, and virtually everything in between.  His track record speaks for itself.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.  See the difference an experienced attorney can make in your case.


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  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Utah Burglary Attorney Not Guilty - Client was charged with residential felony burglary and theft charges. Effective cross-examination of alleged victim at preliminary hearing resulted in an admission by the alleged victim that the charges were based on a false report to police, made for the purpose of getting revenge against the defendant. Case was dismissed outright.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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