Shoplifting is a crime that many people who don’t own or manage a retail business dismiss as minor. The average person thinks of shoplifting as an impulse crime committed by a teenager, something that would have minimal impact on a business.
The truth about shoplifting is that it is incredibly prevalent. Businesses lose millions of dollars every year to both impulse shoplifting committed by customers and organized shoplifting, possibly involving tools or multiple people.
While individuals don’t always take shoplifting as seriously as they should, the state absolutely takes a dim view of property offenses that target retail businesses. Depending on the circumstances, someone accused of a shoplifting crime in Indiana could face felony charges and years in state custody.
There are three categories of shoplifting offenses: Possible penalties include fines and prison time
The retail value of the items involved will determine both the charges and penalties that you face. If the total value of the items was less than $750, the state will charge you with a Class A misdemeanor offense. The penalties possible include up to a year in county jail and fines of as much as $5,000.
Once the value of the merchandise exceeds $750 the offense becomes a Level 6 felony charge. There will be a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 180 days, but a judge could sentence you to up to two-and-a-half years in state custody. The highest category for shoplifting is a Level 5 felony offense, and the items taken must have a combined value of $50,000 or more. The penalties in these extreme cases can be as much as $10,000 in fines and possibly six years imprisonment.
Not everyone accused of shoplifting is a thief
Managers, security guards and loss prevention specialists can become overly-assertive in their efforts to curtail shoplifting at a business. They may stop people before they actually leave the store because of how they handle merchandise or arrange items on their cart.
Putting items on the bottom rack or inside other items you intend to purchase could make you look like someone who has an intense tension to steal when nothing could be further from the truth. You will likely need to make use of your discovery rights as a criminal defendant to review the evidence the business has against you when deciding the best defense strategy for your situation.
Assertively fighting back when you face criminal charges can protect you and help preserve your reputation.