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Accused of shoplifting? Here's what you need to do

If you're accused of shoplifting, don't assume that the penalty will be so light that it's not worth fighting. Depending on the circumstances, including the item in question and value, penalties can be severe.

The manner in which you fight a shoplifting charge depends largely on the details of your arrest, including the evidence presented against you. With the right approach, you can get your charges dropped or reduced.

Here are some of the best shoplifting defense strategies:

  • Challenging the act: There are two general elements of shoplifting. The first important aspect of a case is the intentional concealment or possession of an item. The second matter is the intent to leave the store with the item without paying for it. You may be able to argue that you didn't intend to shoplift, such as because you accidentally walked out of the store without paying.
  • Challenge witness statements: When a shoplifting case is based largely on video evidence, witness statements don't always weigh as heavily. However, if no video evidence is available, witness observations will move to the forefront. By proving that these observations are unreliable or biased, you increase your chance of preventing a conviction.
  • Negotiate a plea deal: It's not always the right approach, but a plea deal can go a long way in lessening the impact of the crime on your life. For example, you may be able to use this strategy to get your conviction expunged.

Along with the above, you should know what to do if you're detained at a store for shoplifting.

Most importantly, keep in mind that you may be able to explain your situation to store personnel. If that doesn't work, don't fight back. Instead, cooperate with store personnel and security until police arrive.

Once you understand your charges, you can learn more about shoplifting defense strategies and potential consequences of a conviction.

It doesn't matter if you're a teenager, college student or adult, a shoplifting charge is something that requires your full attention. A conviction can result in a fine, imprisonment and an impact on your academic or professional life. Understanding your legal rights will help put your mind at ease as you move through your court case.

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