People tend not to take shoplifting very seriously. The term itself conjures visions of kids pocketing candy bars at convenience stores. But Ohio law treats shoplifting as petty theft and prescribes harsh penalties for a conviction or guilty plea.
Partnering with an experienced shoplifting defense attorney when charged with this crime in or around Columbus, Ohio, can spare you jail time, high fines, and probation. Achieving the best outcome of having the charge dropped altogether will require presenting convincing evidence that no wrongdoing occurred. A dedicated Columbus criminal defense attorney will know how to gather, organize, and present such evidence.
The Ohio Revised Code does not specifically address “shoplifting.” Rather, the offense falls under section 2013.02, which lays out definitions and penalties for theft. Specifically, shoplifting is covered by the first two lines of the written law. It states that no person, with purpose to deprive the owner of property or services, shall knowingly obtain or exert control over the property and/or services … without the consent of the owner or person authorized to give consent.
Shoplifting is generally understood to mean illegally taking an item that is priced or valued at less $1,000 from a store. Store customers and employees are the most likely people to be charged with a theft crime related to goods and services. This includes criminal acts like taking money from the register, diverting inventory, changing price tags to get a better deal, and trying to use gift cards that have not been appropriately purchased i.e. an employee funds a gift card for use without paying for it or gives unauthorized discounts.
Shoplifting is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor of the first degree. The maximum penalties for this level of criminal offense in Ohio include up to 180 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine. A person convicted of shoplifting may also be ordered to pay restitution to the business from which the item was stolen, placed on probation for a lengthy period of time, and can even be ordered to complete a class designed educate them about the danger and negative financial impact of stealing.
The phrases “with purpose,” “knowingly obtain,” and “without the consent of the owner or person authorized to give consent” are required to convict someone of shoplifting. Police and prosecutors cannot secure a conviction unless they can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused individual meant to steal an item and took the item without express or implied permission.
In practical terms, the law itself does not make it a crime if the person made an honest mistake. Similarly, a shoplifting conviction cannot be secured only on the basis that you left a store without paying for something.
A knowledgeable Columbus criminal defense attorney, who agrees to represent a defendant in a shoplifting case, will interview potential witnesses and store employees, explore the possibility of obtaining store security camera footage, and ensure that their client has the best chance of avoiding a wrongful conviction.
If you are facing a shoplifting or theft charge in Columbus or any other court in Franklin County, contact Columbus criminal defense attorney Colin Maher for a free phone consultation. You can call Colin at (614) 205-2208 or contact him online.