Can Shoplifting Charges Be Dropped in Utah?
Shoplifting may seem like a harmless offense because people assume that retail stores can afford to lose a few items. However, shoplifting can carry stiff criminal penalties in Utah, especially if the items stolen are highly valuable. Despite the strictness of the offense, it is possible that you may be able to have your charges dropped under certain circumstances. If you or a family member was arrested for shoplifting, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City theft defense lawyer. Criminal lawyer Darwin Overson is prepared to help you fight your shoplifting case today. The lawyers at Overson Law explain whether shoplifting charges can be dropped in Utah.
Utah Retail Theft Laws
An offender commits retail theft when they steal or incite another to steal merchandise from a retail store. The offender must intend to keep the property or intend to obtain or use the property without paying the appropriate value for it. The value of the stolen items will directly affect the severity of the misdemeanor or felony that the offender is charged with.
Retail theft charges may also occur under the following circumstances:
- The offender tampered with a price tag of an item and attempted to purchase it at a lower price than the establishment listed it for
- Taking a shopping cart that belongs to a retail store for your benefit
- Under-ringing merchandise while at a cash register
As mentioned, the value of the stolen products will determine the offense you are charged with. If you take over $5,000 worth of goods or services, you can be charged with a second degree felony. In Utah, second degree felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and $10,000 in criminal fines. If you steal between $1,500 and $5,000 worth of goods and services, you can be charged with a third degree felony. Third degree felonies carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Additionally, if you take between $500 and $1,500 of items or services, this is a class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors can land you in jail for up to one year and also result in a fine of $2,500. Any property or services that are taken that equal less than $500 is a class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
To learn more about retail theft laws in Utah, you should speak with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer.
How to Get Shoplifting Charges Dropped
There are a few ways to possibly have your shoplifting charges dropped. When you are arrested, the prosecutor may file criminal charges if they believe they have enough evidence to support a conviction. If during a preliminary hearing a judge decides there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction, the case will be allowed to proceed.
It is important not to confuse dropped charges with dismissed charges. Your charges can be dropped before they are filed or after they are filed. However, your charges can only be dismissed after they are filed.
If your case is allowed to proceed, the offense may be dropped if the victim asks the prosecutor to drop the charges. The lack of cooperation by a victim may mean that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to convict you of shoplifting. However, even if a retail store did request that the prosecutor drop the case, the discretion to drop the case lies with the prosecutor. Additionally, under certain circumstances, the arresting officer may have the discretion to drop the charges.
There are several reasons why a shoplifting charge may be dropped:
- The evidence needed to build the case is flimsy
- Eyewitness accounts conflict with the evidence
- Necessary evidence was illegally secured without a warrant
- Your constitutional rights were violated (e.g., the police coerced you into a confession after you asked for an attorney)
This is not an exclusive list, and there are other variables that a prosecutor may consider before dropping charges.
A plea bargain is another way that your offense may be dropped or reduced. A plea bargain is when an offender and a prosecutor agree to reduce or drop charges in exchange for the offender pleading guilty to a certain offense. Typically, the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser crime than the one they committed. For example, pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft instead of felony theft may be an option in severe cases.
Work with a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney to Negotiate Dropping Your Shoplifting Charges
If you or a family member was arrested for shoplifting, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. With over 16 years of criminal defense experience, Darwin Overson can help you plead your case to possibly have your charges dropped. To schedule a free legal consultation, contact Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.