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  • Published: May 8, 2024

Defending Against Shoplifting Allegations: Strategies For Legal CounselThe Inniss Law Firm, PLLC. | Criminal Defense Law Firm In Hudson Valley, New York

Certain types of crimes are easier to defend than others, and many criminal defense lawyers see clients seeking help with a shoplifting charge. What may seem like an open-and-closed case to a retailer deserves nuanced and tailored legal help, and understanding how to best defend your client is important.

While many shoplifters are immediately assumed to be minors, a growing number of adults find themselves facing shoplifting charges. These aren’t trivial charges, and the experience of being stopped and detained by store asset protection or management can be frightening.

What’s more, your client may have been arrested and placed in handcuffs for the first time in their lives, making the entire event all the more confusing and traumatic for them.

So, how can you successfully defend against a shoplifting allegation and best help your client? Hudson Valley, New York Attorney Randall Inniss walks you through several key points to consider as a criminal defense attorney.

The Nuances Of Identifying Intention

Determining intent to steal is an important part of prosecution, and many clients find themselves facing charges of theft when they simply forgot to pay. The increased popularity of self-check machines has given consumers the sudden responsibility of a carefully trained and paid cashier.

Many retail stores have asset protection teams who are trained in specific ways to help them identify possible retail theft. But their methods can be biased and built more upon the company’s reputation than on objective justice.

A successful defense of a client accused of shoplifting may come down to their intent. The burden is on the prosecution to prove intent to deprive the store of its merchandise. Shoppers who leave items on a shelf and walk away have been accused of shoplifting after stores assume this signaled “dumping merchandise” and abandonment of a plan to steal.

But does this simple action necessarily indicate an intent to steal? How can you, as a defense lawyer, leverage these asset protection standards to help your client?

Reasonable Doubt And Narrative

Accusations as broad as the ones sometimes leveled by retailers can create ample room for reasonable doubt. This may allow you to successfully persuade a judge that no intent to steal can be proven.

After all, simply leaving an item on a shelf is not the same as leaving a store with an unpaid item.

What’s more, if your client made attempts to pay or verbally offered to pay this can cast doubt on their intentions to steal. And if your client never intended to deprive the retailer of their merchandise a conviction of shoplifting is less likely.

Simply because a retail establishment presses charges does not mean that a client is guilty. It’s important to remind your client of this and work with the client to form a detailed and careful picture of the incident in question. To this effect, security cameras may prove helpful rather than injurious.

Cameras & Witnesses : Potentially Quite Helpful

While security cameras can be valuable sources of information, their recorded images can also be vague, blurry, or subject to interpretation. Retail stores and asset protection teams have every incentive to assume the worst about what they may notice while watching cameras, but their assumptions may not always be accurate.

Be sure to review all video evidence with care and attention making sure to notice what isn’t as well as what is recorded. Your keen eyes and objective discernment could mean the difference between acquittal and conviction for a concerned client.

The same can be said of witness testimony. Where does each witness claim they were at every given moment? And where do they claim your client was at the same time? Carefully reviewing witness testimonies and comparing them may show contradictions or gaps in eyewitness narratives that allow for doubt to be cast on the prosecution’s narrative.

Final Thoughts

Defending a client accused of shoplifting involves a careful and objective review of all evidence. What a retailer sees may differ greatly from what took place on the sale floor and often fails to consider a client’s intentions.

Make sure to review every piece of evidence and witness testimony. Take special care to observe what is as well as what is not captured on camera. Note any gaps or contradictions in witnesses narratives as this may help to cast doubt on accusations of theft.

Helping your client during one of the toughest and most frightening days of their life will require careful cooperation, an eye for detail, and an awareness of the nuances of intent vs. retailer assumptions.

Have questions about defending against shoplifting allegations? Seeking a seasoned and uniquely qualified shoplifting lawyer in Hudson Valley, New York?

Allow hard-working attorney and former NY State Trooper Randall Inniss to review your case and offer his legal assistance. Call The Inniss Law Firm today at (845) 533-0265 and set up an initial consultation.

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