A shoplifting conviction can lead to severe consequences, irrespective of the value of the supposed stolen goods. However, in most cases, the facts of the shoplifting accusations involve details that could result in a charge reduction or dismissal. At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we have skilled theft crimes attorneys experienced in identifying these mitigating circumstances and favorably presenting them to a jury or judge. We’ve successfully defended clients in Las Vegas, and we are ready to defend you as well.
Defining the Nevada Crime of Shoplifting
Shoplifting is intentionally carrying away, taking, or stealing store property or merchandise. Generally, you commit this crime when you’re in a store and slip merchandise that’s in there in your bag, pocket, or under your arm, then try leaving the store unnoticed. If the employees at the premises catch you, they can legally detain you for a reasonable period until law enforcement officers arrive. This is known as the shopkeeper’s privilege as defined under NRS (Nevada Revised Statute) 597.850. The legal term for shoplifting in Nevada is larceny.
Legal Defenses to Shoplifting
Any of these legal defenses could be enough to have the shoplifting charges against you dropped:
The Police Carried Out an Illegal Search
The police require probable cause to search you. If the supposed stolen goods were discovered after the police conducted an illegal search, the judge might disregard it as proof. That may leave the prosecution with too weak a case to continue prosecuting.
It could be that in the heat of the moment, the shopkeeper attributed the shoplifting to the wrong party, which is you. If your lawyer can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are not the actual culprit, then the judge should drop the charges against you.
No Shoplifting Occurred
Maybe the storekeeper agreed that you could pay for your goods later. Or, perhaps you did pay for the merchandise, and the storekeeper’s records aren’t reflecting as so. If this is the case, evidence such as promissory notes, receipts, video footage, and eyewitness testimony may help show that you did not take anything wrongfully.
You Didn’t Intend to Steal
At times store patrons become distracted and innocently exit the store after they’ve forgotten to pay. Alternatively, it could be that someone else planted the stolen property on you without your knowledge. Provided you didn’t have any intent to steal; you didn’t commit any crime.
The Entrapment Defense
The entrapment defense will apply if you indeed did steal the item but were persuaded into doing so by another person so they could prosecute you. It will best apply if the intent or idea to commit shoplifting came from the entrapping party with the intent to apprehend and charge you.
It’s a valid defense if you can show that you had reason to believe the property you were allegedly shoplifting was rightfully yours or that you had a valid claim to it. Even though this is a straightforward legal defense, it isn’t as easy as just saying ‘it was mine.’ Generally, you’ll have to present evidence supporting your claim. Also, this defense may backfire if you used force or caused a disturbance when retrieving the good.
You Were Intoxicated
You and your attorney can successfully defend shoplifting charges if you prove that you were intoxicated when the supposed shoplifting took place. Irrespective of the kind of intoxication (drugs, chemicals, or alcohol), if you were incapable of forming the required intent to shoplift (for instance, you mistakenly thought the item belonged to you), you may have a valid intoxication defense.
The Value of the Item or Items Isn’t What the Prosecutor Says It Is
If you can prove that the item’s value is lower than what the D.A says it is, you may not be found guilty of shoplifting. For example, if you’re accused of stealing goods worth $1,500, you will be facing grand larceny charges. If you can prove the value of the goods is much lower than that, say $1,100, you may not be guilty of grand larceny. However, the judge may lower your charges to petty larceny, which has lenient penalties.
The Penalties for Shoplifting
The consequences for shoplifting are based on the degree of the crime charged. The degree of the offense charged, on the other hand, is determined by the monetary value of the allegedly stolen goods.
If the value of the merchandise you stole is lower than one thousand two hundred dollars, the offense is known as petty/petit larceny, and you will face misdemeanor charges. Upon a conviction, you will be subject to a six-month county jail term, restitution, and a maximum of one thousand dollars in fines. If it’s your first-time offense, the judge may agree to drop your case. If the judge dismisses your case, you would just be required to pay restitution and a fine and attend petit larceny school, an online course.
If the value of the property you took is one thousand two hundred dollars or more, the crime is referred to as grand larceny. Grand larceny can be a category D felony, category C felony, or category B felony based on the value of the goods in question.
If the value of the property you stole ranges between $1,200 and $4,999, you’ll face category D felony charges. Penalties upon conviction include up to four years in state prison, a maximum fine of $5,000 (at the judge’s discretion), and restitution.
If the property’s value is five thousand dollars or more but lower than twenty-five thousand dollars, you’ll face category C felony charges. If convicted, you’ll be subject to up to five years in prison, $10,000 in fines (at the discretion of the judge), and restitution.
If the value of the merchandise you took is $25,000 or more but lower than a hundred thousand dollars, you’ll be subject to category B felony charges. The consequences if convicted are up to ten years in prison, $10,000 in fines, and restitution. And if the value of the merchandise is a hundred thousand dollars or more, you’ll also face category B felony charges but with enhanced penalties upon a conviction. The consequences will include up to twenty years in state prison, a fine of $15,000, and restitution.
The value of the stolen item is established by using the highest reasonable price for it. Valid price tags can be sufficient to determine the value of the merchandise. If two individuals or more work together to commit shoplifting, the value of all the merchandise stolen will be combined to meet the shoplifting standard of $1,200, which has more severe consequences.
Immigration Consequences of Shoplifting
Usually, petty larceny isn’t deportable, but grand larceny is. Thus, if you’re an immigrant facing grand larceny charges, you have to seek help from an attorney right away. Having your charges lowered to a non-deportable crime or dismissed could be the only way of staying in the United States.
Collateral Consequences for Shoplifting
Apart from criminal punishments like incarceration, restitution, and fines, you’ll be left with a permanent criminal record if you’re found guilty of shoplifting. A criminal record can result in various collateral consequences, which could be damaging to your future. For example:
You May Not Secure Employment with a Larceny Conviction
Unless you petition for the sealing of your conviction record, a shoplifting charge will appear during your pre-employment background check. Note that no government rule or law requires employers to fire or hire an employee based on their prior arrest history. Also, most employers look at a potential employee’s background as a whole, education, devotion to the job, and work experience. But despite these facts, the proper way of handling a prior conviction is by sealing your criminal record.
Other collateral consequences are:
- Your criminal record could hinder your capability of renting an apartment whenever a leasing company or landlord conducts a routine background check on you
- Your social standing and reputation may suffer
- You may be denied a gaming card if you have a criminal record or criminal history
- You could be rendered ineligible for particular state professional licenses
Shoplifting vs. Burglary
Shoplifting is a distinct crime from NRS 205.060, burglary. Burglary is defined as entering a vehicle or building intending to execute any of these crimes when inside:
- NRS 200.481, battery
- NRS471, assault
- Any felony
- NRS 205.380, obtaining property or money through false pretenses
Thus, you could be subject to a burglary charge even if you never commit an offense once inside the building or vehicle. All that counts is your intent while entering the building/vehicle. Burglary is a felony offense.
Also, you can be charged with both shoplifting and burglary. If the D.A believes you intended to commit larceny or shoplifting when you broke into the store, you could face both burglary and larceny charges.
Sealing of Your Conviction Record
A shoplifting conviction record can be sealed after a predetermined period. And if your case is dismissed, there isn’t a waiting period whatsoever to file a petition requesting for your record to be sealed.
If convicted of petty larceny, you’ll have to wait for one year from when your case ends to file a petition requesting for your conviction record to be sealed. If found guilty of grand larceny, you’ll need to wait for five years from when your case ends to request record sealing. And if you’re proven innocent or your case is dismissed, you can request a record seal right after your case ends.
The record sealing process itself takes several months or weeks. However, we highly recommend it. Employers are highly likely to employ persons with no larceny conviction records on their background checks.
What to Note If Arrested of Shoplifting
If you’ve been accused of larceny, you should note the following:
Remember to Remain Silent
Being accused of something can trigger anger in the calmest of individuals. If you indeed took something, fear could drive you into confessing. Either way, it’s always a good idea to stay as silent as possible. Also, be polite and give minimum information. Keep in mind that the police or prosecution could use whatever you say against you in court.
It isn’t uncommon for individuals to walk out of a shop and accidentally forget to pay for their obtained goods (lack of intent). Alternatively, it could be that the shopkeeper thought they saw something fishy going on with you. If you committed an honest mistake, apologize, then offer to return or pay for the item.
Understand Shopkeeper’s Privilege
As we mentioned, if you’re suspected of shoplifting, the store personnel can legally detain you until the police come. However, it’s critical to know that personnel must have reason to believe you’ve shoplifted merchandise, and they can only apply reasonable force when detaining you.
You Could Face Shoplifting Charges Even If You Did Not Take Anything
Laws vary from state to state. In Nevada, you could face shoplifting charges without actually stealing or taking anything. For instance, actions such as distracting a shopkeeper for another person, acting as a lookout, or changing prices are grounds for larceny charges.
Seek Legal Help
In Nevada State, shoplifting charges have severe consequences, as we have seen. A skilled attorney can help you determine what legal defenses can apply in your case and explore what legal options you have. Nevada prosecuting attorneys can lower the sentence or charges if the accused pleads guilty. Or, your attorney can negotiate a plea bargain if the prosecuting team is confident that there’s a slight risk of you re-offending.
Nevada Plea Deals for Shoplifting
Usually, the DA will reduce grand and petty larceny sentences if the defendants pay restitution and take a class on theft. At times, the charges may be lowered to a criminal trespass, which has less severe punishments. Your larceny defense lawyer will guide you through the plea bargaining process to an outcome that works for you.
Find a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
If you’ve been arrested for shoplifting, retaining a lawyer devoted to your defense is a critical step to take. Our attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Hart have represented many clients facing theft crime charges in Las Vegas and we are ready to defend you. We might help get your case withdrawn even before charges are pressed. Please contact us as soon as possible at 702-380-4278!