Monday, September 21, 2009

"I MEANT TO PAY FOR IT": WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED OF SHOPLIFTING

You are visiting your favorite big box store. You picked up a couple DVDs that you were thinking of purchasing, but then got distracted and walked out the door with them. Before you knew it, security was after you, and you are now facing retail theft charges. What can you expect?

You may be hoping that the store will let it go, and the charges against you might then be dismissed. But in this recession economy, the store’s employee will most likely be ready and eager to testify. Because of the drain that shoplifting takes on retailers, many stores are highly aggressive about prosecuting these crimes, particularly big box and department stores.

So what can you do? When you are first brought in before security, you are best advised to request an attorney and not answer questions. Any attempts to explain yourself may be used against you and might undermine any defense you might later wish to present.

Once at court, an experienced attorney can help you weigh your options. Maybe you were extremely stressed and really did forget you had the DVDs in your cart. Maybe the evidence against you is weak. An attorney can help determine whether you should take the case to trial.

But what if you really meant to take the DVDs? If the evidence against you is too strong to risk a trial, you may still have options. There may be alternatives to a conviction such as attending a special school. Your attorney might help work out a plea agreement. For example in Illinois, you might be able to take “supervision,” which is technically not a conviction. Then, if you meet certain requirements, you might be able to expunge your arrest five years after a successfully discharged supervision.

In this job market, a retail theft charge on your record could cost you a lot more than a fine or some community service. It is imperative that you explore your options with a qualified attorney. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.