Interviewer: What’s the lowest level theft crime? What are the monetary amounts that limit the classification to a low level crime? I would imagine shoplifting would be one, is that right?
Dale: Theft crimes do not become a felony until the amount stolen exceeds $1000. If the value of stolen items is less than $1000, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree. You are correct when you say that the most common scenario is theft from retail stores. As an attorney defending these types of crimes, sometimes there are very defensible positions.
Misdemeanor Level Theft Crimes Are Defensible
It’s not uncommon for people to be distracted and to walk out of a store without paying for an item. They’re on their cell phone. The item may have been stored underneath their cart. They’ve paid for the items except for underneath the cart. Sure enough, they’re finding themselves facing a theft charge.
The Large Retail Establishments Will Prosecute Shoplifters
Interviewer: What’s the climate amongst retailers? Are the large chains such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Costco aggressively trying to prosecute every offender?
Dale: Yes, they are, with Wal-Mart being the worst. They will not back off. They want everybody prosecuted.
It Is Common for People to Unintentionally Forget to Pay for One Item and Face a Shoplifting Charge?
Interviewer: How often does the scenario that somebody literally forgot they had something in the bottom of their cart and they unintentionally walk out?
Dale: More frequently than one would believe, especially in this day of multitasking where people are simultaneously on cell phones, shopping and minding kids. It’s not unusual for them to take an item and forget to pay for it. In most cases, especially in Wal-Mart, they will not give you a break. You will get charged.
Food Items Are Typically Involved in These Scenarios
Interviewer: Even if it’s a pack of gum or another inexpensive item?
Dale: Yes. Most often the charge usually involves food items.
You Can Be Charged with Shoplifting Regardless of the Value of the Item, Even If the Value Is Less Than One Dollar
Interviewer: Is there a limit under which you can’t be charged with theft? For example, an item that costs less than a quarter?
Dale: No, there is no monetary amount limit. It could be anything.
Interviewer: What are the most common retail establishments that prosecute shoplifters? You mentioned Wal-Mart. Are there any other stores that aggressively pursue shoplifters?
Shoplifting Also Frequently Occurs in Grocery Stores and Drug Store Chains
Dale: Grocery stores are common places where shoplifting occurs and after that drugstores, which are the third most frequent places shoplifting occurs.
Interviewer: Are there any particular items that tend to be shoplifted more than others?
Items of Clothing Are Frequently Shoplifted
Dale: With people between the ages of 18 and 21, primarily clothes are the items that are shoplifted.
Interviewer: What about for older people, ages 21 and over?
Dale: Senior citizens are usually caught stealing from a discount store in Ohio here called Mark’s. They usually change price tags on items.