Shoplifting, also known as “retail theft,” is a serious crime in Utah. Adults or teenagers who are caught stealing merchandise can be charged with misdemeanor or even felony shoplifting, depending on the nature and value of the stolen items.
If you or your child was arrested for shoplifting in Utah, you need quality legal representation. Salt Lake City shoplifting lawyer Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience fighting felony and misdemeanor retail theft charges, and is ready to put his experience to work on your behalf. It may be possible to reduce the penalties you face, or even to have the charges dropped or dismissed. To speak confidentially about shoplifting charges, contact Darwin for a free legal consultation, or call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.
What is the Legal Definition of Shoplifting?
Each state has its own shoplifting laws. Utah’s law against shoplifting is located at Section 76-6-602, which states that a person shoplifts when he or she takes or conceals merchandise without paying for it. It is also considered shoplifting, under Section 76-6-602(2), to change or remove an item’s price tag or label, or, under Section 76-6-602(5), to steal a shopping cart from the premises.
Is Shoplifting a Felony or Misdemeanor in Utah?
The answer to this question depends on factors like what type of property was stolen, and how much the property was worth. Based on these variables, a shoplifting offense can be categorized as a:
- Second Degree Felony – Value equal to or exceeding $5,000
- Third Degree Felony – Value above or equal to $1,500, but below $5,000
- Class A Misdemeanor – Value above or equal to $500, but below $1,500
- Class B Misdemeanor – Value below $500
To reiterate, the type of property can also impact how charges are graded. For instance, shoplifting is a second degree felony if the property being stolen is a gun or a functional car. This applies regardless of the item’s actual monetary value.
The way a shoplifting offense is graded is important, because it impacts the criminal penalties that may be imposed if the defendant is convicted – including fines and jail time. Utah criminal penalties for shoplifting are discussed in detail below.
What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in Utah?
Regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or felony offense, retail theft can lead to fines, restitution, and incarceration. Felony offenders are subject to greater penalties than defendants who committed misdemeanors, while juveniles – whose cases are generally processed through a separate, civil judicial system – face their own set of consequences.
Shoplifting Fines in Utah
There are different maximum fines for each class of felony and misdemeanor in Utah. For example, a defendant charged with a second degree felony faces higher potential fines than a defendant who has been charged with a third degree felony or any type of misdemeanor. Utah criminal fines are as follows:
- Second Degree Felony – Maximum fine of $10,000
- Third Degree Felony – Maximum fine of $5,000
- Class A Misdemeanor – Maximum fine of $2,500
- Class B Misdemeanor – Maximum fine of $1,000
Shoplifting Jail Time in Utah
Utah sentencing ranges for felonies and misdemeanors are as follows:
- Second Degree Felony – Maximum prison sentence of 15 years
- Third Degree Felony – Maximum prison sentence of five years
- Class A Misdemeanor – Maximum jail sentence of one year
- Class B Misdemeanor – Maximum jail sentence of six months
Sentencing decisions can be influenced by various aggravating or mitigating factors, such as committing the crime near a school, having a history of prior offenses, or being assessed as “a good candidate for treatment.”
Shoplifting Penalty for Minors
Shoplifting arrests often involve juveniles, meaning people under the age of 18. The juvenile court system is a civil system, unlike Utah’s adult criminal courts. These civil courts hear most cases involving juvenile offenses, with some exceptions for the most serious and violent felonies.
Though the juvenile courts are civil, there can still be serious consequences for teenagers who commit shoplifting. Some common examples of shoplifting penalties for minors include fines, restitution (victim compensation), juvenile probation, and community service. Moreover, a record of shoplifting can impact a teen’s ability to obtain student loans, participate in work programs, or qualify for internships and other opportunities. If your son or daughter has been arrested for shoplifting, it is vitally important to seek legal help from an experienced attorney immediately.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Before and Immediately Following Your Salt Lake City Shoplifting Arrest
In some cases where a police officer personally witnesses you commit shoplifting or otherwise has probable cause to believe you just did so, they can arrest you on the spot. More often, however, there will be some sort of investigation into what happened where the police will review security footage, collect physical evidence, and interview potential witnesses. They may even try to interview you, telling you that you are not a suspect and they just want your input to help solve the case. However, even if you believe you have nothing to hide, you should never speak to the police without a skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden by your side. We can make sure that you do not answer any questions that the police could use against you down the line. We can also fight any search of your home or vehicle on the basis of a lack of a warrant, a faulty warrant, or the officers exceeding the scope of the warrant during the search.
After your arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for the booking process, which involves the police photographing and fingerprinting you and collecting your biographical information. If the police try to question you, remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, and you should choose to exercise both of these rights by not speaking with the police about the matter until your lawyer is present. Once booking is complete, you will be held in the station’s cell or at the local jail for up to 72 hours until your initial appearance and bail hearing can occur. This quick turnaround time makes it all the more vital that you reach out to one of our skilled Salt Lake City shoplifting defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden as soon after your arrest as possible.
At your first appearance, the judge will read the charges that have been filed against you and explain your rights during the criminal case process. In misdemeanor cases, you will also be arraigned at your first appearance. Your arraignment is where you are first asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In felony cases, this occurs later, after a potential preliminary hearing. Either way, our skilled Salt Lake City attorneys for a criminal arraignment are likely to advise you to plead not guilty while we gather all of the prosecutor’s evidence and assess the strength of their case.
At your bail hearing, the judge will decide whether you can be released or if you must remain in jail while the underlying charges against you are dealt with. Typically, the judge will only hold you for very serious crimes, not shoplifting, but if you have an extensive criminal record it is possible they will rule you a threat to public safety and keep you behind bars. However, even if they choose to release you, the judge will often set cash bail that you must put up with the court before you can be released. Our skilled bail hearing attorneys at Overson & Bugden know how to make the best arguments for you to be released on little to no bail, based on such factors as the nature and severity of your shoplifting charge, your criminal history or lack thereof, and your ties and contributions to the local community.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Resolve Your Shoplifting Case
Once we have gotten you out of jail and dealt with your arraignment, we can focus our attentions on filing any necessary motions, like a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure by the police, and begin negotiations with the prosecutor for a deal to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. However, in class A misdemeanor and felony shoplifting cases, there will also be the potential of a preliminary hearing to prepare for. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor will have to present their evidence and witnesses to the judge, and we will be permitted to conduct cross-examinations. Then the judge will determine whether there is probable cause for the case to proceed. The prosecutor will usually ask you to waive this hearing, but you should never do so without consulting your attorney first, as we may want to have the hearing even if we do not believe we will get the case dismissed just so we can see a preview of the prosecutor’s case.
In some cases where you are charged with relatively minor crimes and especially for those who are first-time offenders, pre-trial intervention or a plea in abeyance may be options that the prosecutor is willing to consider. In either of these situations, if you stay out of trouble with the law for the required period of time and fulfill all the requirements imposed upon you by the court, such as paying reparations for what you stole, your charges will be dismissed and you will not have a permanent criminal record related to the incident.
In cases where pre-trial intervention or a plea in abeyance are not on the table, we can try to work out a deal with the prosecutor for your charges to be downgraded, such as from a felony shoplifting charge to a misdemeanor shoplifting charge or to a municipal ordinance, in exchange for you entering a guilty plea and saving the prosecutor the time and expense of putting on a trial. In other cases the prosecutor may be willing to recommend a lenient sentence, such as probation, to the judge in exchange for your plea. The judge will almost always follow the sentencing recommendations of the prosecutor. Any time you are not satisfied with the deal or deals offered, or simply wish to prove your innocence in the courtroom, our battle-tested Salt Lake City trial attorneys at Overson Law, PLCC are ready to leave no stone unturned fighting for a not guilty verdict at trial.
Salt Lake City Shoplifting Defense Attorney Handling Juvenile Crimes
The consequences of a shoplifting conviction can be costly, embarrassing, and disruptive to every part of your life. If you or one of your family members has been charged with retail theft in Utah, you need to start discussing your options with a tough and tested criminal lawyer. To set up a free legal consultation with Salt Lake City shoplifting attorney Darwin Overson, contact Overson Law online today, or call (801) 758-2287 for 24/7 phone assistance.