A shoplifting charge may seem minor, but depending on the value of the items in question, you may face felony charges and could even end up spending time in prison. Because of this, it is important to be prepared before entering the courtroom and have a strong defense ready for the judge.
In Colorado, shoplifting is defined as the act of knowingly obtaining or controlling someone else’s property with the intention of depriving the owner of that property. By really understanding this definition, you can start to formulate several potential strategies to bolster your defense.
Consider these possible arguments to avoid conviction.
Lack of Intent. As you can see from the definition above, there are a few key elements that need to be proven by the prosecution in order to get a guilty verdict. One of those elements is the intention to deprive the owner of the property. If you can prove that you did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property, the prosecution should not be able to convict you.
Unaware of Shoplifting. Another part of the definition is “knowingly” obtaining or controlling the property in question. Maybe you were unaware that the item fell loose into your bag. Maybe there was confusion about the pricing. Either way, proving that you were unaware of the acts you were committing may help you in court.
Inconsistencies in Testimony. You are innocent until proven guilty. If witnesses are called to the stand to testify against you, you may want to try and find inconsistencies within their stories.
False Accusation. In the event that witnesses are mistaking you for someone else, you may want to consider using an alibi (if it is appropriate and provable) or finding testimony that proves who the real culprit is.
Kleptomania or Related Disorders. Kleptomania is a legitimate impulse disorder that people have been diagnosed with since the 1800s. The disorder gives people the uncontrollable urge to steal things that they don’t need.
Haven’t been diagnosed with kleptomania? That’s okay. It is a disorder that often goes unnoticed until it becomes a legal problem. However, kleptomania is often linked to depression, hoarding, or even eating disorders. If you have a history of any disorders that have been linked to kleptomania, be sure to tell your defense lawyer.
Plea Bargaining and Pretrial Diversion. If this is your first offense, you may also be able to go through Adult Pretrial Diversion or Plea Bargaining, depending on the county you live in. With diversion (which is available in Denver), you will have to complete specific duties (paying restitution, community service hours, counseling, etc.) in a certain amount of time, written into a contract.
If you meet the terms of the contract, criminal charges will be dropped and you will not face sentencing. Plea bargains, available where Pretrial Diversion is not, work in a similar way.
When you begin to build your defense strategy, remember the charges that you are facing. In Colorado, shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount that you stole:
- <$500: Class 2 misdemeanor; 3-12 months in prison and/or fines between $250-$1,000
- Between $500-$1,000: Class 1 misdemeanor; 6-18 months in prison and/or fines between $500 and $5,000
- Between $1,000-$20,000: Class 4 felony; 2-6 years in prison and/or fines between $2,000-$500,000
- >$20,000: Class 3 felony; 4-12 years in prison and/or fines between $3,000-$750,000
If you are found guilty, you are also liable to pay restitutions to the shop owner that total the value of the items stolen and an additional penalty of up to $250.
Talk to a Colorado defense lawyer today to get the best representation and have the strongest defense in the courtroom.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.