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 you find yourself charged with this crime in or around Columbus, Ohio, can spare you a jail sentence and a stiff fine. Achieving the best outcome of having the charge dropped altogether will require presenting convincing evidence that no wrongdoing occurred. A dedicated criminal defense attorney will know how to gather, organize, and present such evidence.
The Ohio Revised Code, which is the compendium of criminal laws for the state, does not contain the word “shoplifting.” Rather, the offense falls under O.R.C. section 2013.02, which lays out definitions and penalties for theft. Specifically, shoplifting is covered by the first two lines of the statute: “No person, with purpose to deprive the owner of property or services, shall knowingly obtain or exert control over either the property 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. Individuals who enter stores as customers are most likely to be charged with shoplifting. Other provisions of the theft statute cover alleged criminal acts such as taking money from the register, diverting inventory, and stealing big-ticket items such as jewelry and cars.
Shoplifting is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor of the first degree. The maximum statutory penalties for that category of criminal offense in Ohio are a 180-day jail sentence and a $500 fine. A person convicted of shoplifting may also be ordered to pay restitution to the business from which the item was stolen.
The phrases “with purposes,” “knowingly obtain” and ‘without the consent of the owner or person authorized to give consent” are essential to making an accusation of shoplifting stick. 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 makes it wrong to convict a person who made an honest mistake and forgot that they had placed an item in their item in their pocket or purse. Similarly, a shoplifting conviction cannot be secured only on the basis that you left a store without paying for an item.
A conscientious criminal defense attorney who agrees to represent a defendant in a shoplifting case will interview witnesses and store employees, explore the possibility of obtaining store security camera footage, and ensure that their client has every opportunity to give their side of the story.
If you are facing a shoplifting charge in Franklin County, consider contacting Clin Maher of the Maher Law Firm for a free consultation. You can schedule an appointment online or call Colin at (614) 205-2208.