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Shoplifting Attorney Utah - Retail Theft - Criminal Defense

A Utah criminal conviction for shoplifting can range anywhere from a class B misdemeanor (180 days jail) to a second degree felony (1-15 years prison). Like other forms of Utah theft, the level of a retail theft charge is usually determined by the value of the merchandise involved. Stephen Howard is a seasoned Utah criminal defense lawyer who has successfully handled literally thousands of serious felony and misdemeanor charges. If you are facing criminal charges for retail theft or shoplifting, Mr. Howard has the experience to help you get the results you need. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

What constitutes shoplifting or retail theft in Utah?

Utah Criminal Charges Retail TheftSections of the Utah criminal code governing retail theft (shoplifting) provide several alternatives under which a person can be charged criminally with retail theft. The most common forms of retail theft involve allegations 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.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to leave the store in order to be charged with retail theft or shoplifting. Simply hiding an item in your jacket or bag, removing an item from its packaging, or switching 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 for it.  

Removing a shopping cart from the store premises can be charged as retail theft. If you are employed as a clerk and "under-ring" merchandise for someone else, that can be charged as retail theft.

What should I do if I am caught shoplifting in Utah?

The first thing you should NOT do if you are caught shoplifting is to struggle to get away. If a clerk or other store employee approaches you, DO NOT push them out of your way. DO NOT struggle against them if they attempt to detain you.  This can turn a minor misdemeanor retail theft charge into a serious felony robbery case.

Under Utah criminal law, "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. . . ."

If you use force against a store employee or other person either during the course of committing a retail theft, or while attempting to flee after committing a retail theft, you may be charged with robbery. Robbery begins as a second degree felony punishable by 1-15 years in prison. Under some circumstances, you could be charged with aggravated robbery with the potential for life in prison.

If you are detained on suspicion of shoplifting, while you should not physically resist, you are in no way required to make any statements. You have a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and a right to remain silent. You are under no legal obligation to make any statement or to offer any explanation for your actions. And your case will generally be better if you exercise your right to remain silent. You will have a chance to tell your side of the story. But you are generally better off if you wait to get advice from a lawyer before you talk.

What are the consequences of being convicted of retail theft?

Retail theft begins as a class B misdemeanor (180 days jail) if the value of the merchandise is less than $500. If the merchandise is worth $500 up to $1,500, the level increases to a class A misdemeanor (365 days jail). Anything $1,500 or over is a third degree felony (0-5 years prison). Over $5,000, and you could be faced with a second degree felony (1-15 years prison).  

Retail theft is also considered an "enhanceable" offense. If you have been previously convicted of two theft or theft-related offenses, then any theft begins at the third degree felony level. Even if the item allegedly taken is worth only pennies, it is still a third degree felony.

Shoplifting also carries the potential for substantial financial penalties. In addition to criminal court fines (which can be in the thousands of dollars), a person who commits retail theft can also be subject to civil penalties, court costs, and attorneys fees.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer in Salt Lake City

If you are facing criminal charges for retail theft, your case should be taken seriously. Stephen Howard is an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer with a track record that includes dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and appellate reversals in some of the most serious crimes on the books in Utah. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with Salt Lake criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard.

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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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