Shoplifting Charges in Ohio
In 2021, more than 22,500 shoplifting charges were filed in the state of Ohio. And as a result, retail theft has led store owners to raise their prices to recoup their losses and cover additional expenses for security measures. For certain, retailers want to see anyone they believe to have stolen from them be prosecuted for the crime.
Regardless of whether a shoplifting charge is a misdemeanor or rises to a felony, and regardless of whether you committed the crime or not, you must have aggressive criminal defense attorneys representing you. That is what Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC delivers for clients in Columbus, Westerville, Dublin, Gahanna, Heath, Hilliard, Lancaster, Newark, Delaware, Granville, Powell, Louis Center, and Pickerington, Ohio, and other communities in Delaware, Fairfield, and Licking counties.
Here are a few things you should know about shoplifting charges in Ohio.
What Qualifies as Shoplifting in Ohio?
Shoplifting falls under Ohio’s theft statute. Theft includes any attempt to deprive the rightful owner of their property without their permission or financial compensation.
There are criminal as well as civil penalties for shoplifting. A store owner can be awarded liquidated damages and attorney’s fees in a civil suit separate from the criminal proceedings. Those are pursued by the prosecuting attorney.
Shoplifting includes more actions than walking out of a store with something you did not pay for. It includes swapping price tags on merchandise to pay less, removing theft-protection devices such as electronic tags, and removing an item from its package to make it more easily concealable.
What Is the Range of Shoplifting Charges in Ohio?
Criminal charges for retail theft depend on the value of the item stolen. Petty theft is a first-degree misdemeanor, reserved for property valued at less than $1,000. The remaining charges are felonies, including felony theft, grand theft, and aggravated theft.
Factors in felony charges include whether the person the property belongs to is “protected,” as in a member of the military or their spouse, or an elderly or disabled individual. Thefts of credit cards, motor vehicles, dangerous drugs, police or assistance animals, firearms, and anhydrous ammonia raise offenses to the felony level.
What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting Convictions?
Penalties for shoplifting convictions are severe. Even a misdemeanor offense can result in up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Those penalties would be on top of restitution for the stolen items and possible civil penalties if a case is filed by the property owner.
Felony conviction penalties range from six to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 to a prison sentence of three to 16.5 years and a fine of up to $20,000.
Of course, hiring a top-notch criminal defense attorney can help you if you did not commit the shoplifting crime you are accused of. However, even if you did, your attorney can be effective in getting the prosecuting attorney to reduce the charge or present evidence to the court that the crime is less than the charge. For example, challenging the value of the stolen property or the existence of aggravating factors may be a strategy your attorney can employ.
Are There Common Defenses for Shoplifting Charges in Ohio?
There are potential defenses to shoplifting. Of course, these will depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident charges against you stem from.
Your defense may include the element of intent. If you can offer proof that possession of the item was unintentional, such as forgetting that you have a purse on your shoulder or you stuck an item in your pocket to free up your hand, then forgetting about it, you may avoid a criminal conviction.
Another defense may be the misidentification of you as the shoplifter. For example, a security video could show someone in clothing like yours concealing an item and leaving the store when, in fact, their face is obscured, so no clear identification can be made.
There may also be extenuating circumstances, such as undue pressure exerted on you to shoplift or if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the alleged theft.
A Fight for Your Future
Whatever the circumstances of a shoplifting charge against you, mount the best legal defense possible. For the criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC, criminal defense is all that they do. They believe that every individual deserves knowledgeable and experienced representation.