What Are Viable Defenses for a Petty Theft Charge?

Interviewer: What are some of the defenses that you can raise? I know it depends on the elements of the case.

Attorney Naticchia Tries to Establish Lack of Intent in Defending a Petty Theft Charge

Dale: Intent. I establish that my client had no intent of leaving with the item. That it was done by mistake. The prosecution does have to show an element of knowledge to procure a conviction. Usually there’s video, and if the video looks like the person is wandering aimlessly and just unintentionally retaining an item it does prove my defense. You could tell on the video is someone is intentionally and someone that has done it accidentally.

It May Be Possible to Incorporate a Store Video Surveillance into a Defense

Interviewer: What have you most often noticed on a store’s video?

Dale: Almost all these stores have video. If you see somebody and they are looking behind their back and in both directions, and shifting their eyes as they walk out the door, that will most definitely show intent to shoplift.

Are Store Personnel Allowed to Detain You if They Suspect You Have Stolen Merchandise from the Store?

Interviewer: When someone wants to walk out with an item, are store personnel allowed to detain somebody? What usually transpires and how is an arrest made?

Store Personnel Do Have the Authority to Detain Suspected Shoplifters

Dale: They have the legal authority. There is a statute that store personnel can detain suspected shoplifters until the police arrive.

If You Are Suspected of Shoplifting, You Will Usually be Detained Just as You Are Leaving the Building

Interviewer: What would the store personnel do? Will they walk up to you while you’re in the store? Will they follow you out of the store?

An Important Point of Defense: If You Have Not Left the Store with an Item, It Is Difficult to Prove You Had Intent to Shoplift

Dale: That’ a problem too. That raises a defense. If the person suspected of shoplifting has not left the store, if they’re still inside the store, a defense exists to support lack of intent. You can always argue that the person was intending to pay for the item.

Interviewer: The stores need to show people outside of the premises with an item to show intent to shoplift?

Dale: Yes, that is correct.