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Misdemeanor Theft of Property

Shoplifting is, unfortunately, a rather common offense – especially for juveniles. This results in stores being overly zealous when it comes to their loss protection programs, meaning you could be charged with shoplifting even if walking out the door with the allegedly stolen item was an accident.

Regardless, Alabama treats shoplifting as a straight theft offense and not separately. Shoplifting – or misdemeanor theft of property – is therefore a serious offense in Alabama and you should take every step to make sure your rights are protected. A skilled Huntsville theft attorney will be able to do just that, as well as fight for a favorable outcome in your minor theft case.

Huntsville Misdemeanor Theft of Property Lawyer

If you have been charged with misdemeanor theft of merchandise in the Madison County area, including Morgan, Marshall, Limestone, and Jackson Counties, the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Law Offices Of Segal & Segal can help you. Sandra and Andrew Segal of Law Offices Of Segal & Segal have nearly 50 years of combined experience both as prosecutors and defense lawyers facing or defending cases like yours.

Overview on Alabama's Shoplifting Laws

Important Theft Definitions in Alabama Law

When it comes to prosecuting a shoplifting case, it is the burden of the state (or prosecution) to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that theft actually occurred according to the definitions of the law. Alabama Code Sections 13A-8-1 and13A-8-2 provides these definitions to further specify what constitutes a theft violation. These definitions are important, and are listed below.

Theft – When a person knowingly does the following:

  • Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over the merchandise of another with the intent to deprive the owner of said property
  • Obtains by deception control over another's property with the intent to deprive that owner of said property
  • Obtains or exerts control over merchandise in the custody of a law enforcement agency which was represented to that person as stolen by the law enforcement agency
  • Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over any donated item left on a charitable organization's property, or on or within 30 feet of a drop-box or trailer belonging to that organization.

Property – Any tangible or intangible merchandise real or personal, money, commodity, or article or thing of any kind of value

Owner – Person other than the defendant who has possession of or any other interest in the property, and without whose consent the defendant has no right to exert control over the property

Obtain or exert control – Any action that involves the taking, carrying away, sale, conveyance, transfer of title to or interest in, or possession of merchandise. In the context of stealing, this is without the owner's permission.

Deception – As it relates to shoplifting, it involves a person doing the following:

  • Creating an impression which is false and which the defendant knows is false
  • Confirming that impression
  • Failing to correct the false impression the defendant created and/or confirmed

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Property Value in Shoplifting Arrests

Alabama may have no separate shoplifting offense, but the state code does separate theft offenses by value in specific dollar amounts. Most shoplifting and misdemeanor stealing of property occurrences involve smaller property that can easily be carried and hidden.

Depending on the item taken, it may be possible to get a felony charge for a value of $501-$2500 such as found in jewelry. Most shoplifting offenses, however, are misdemeanors.

Theft of Property in the Third Degree

  • Also known as shoplifting or misdemeanor stealing of merchandise
  • Stolen item's value does not exceed $500
  • Class A Misdemeanor

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Punishment for Misdemeanor Theft of Property in Madison County

Since shoplifting is considered theft of the third degree in Alabama, a conviction comes with serious consequences. Shoplifting and misdemeanor stealing of property are Class A misdemeanors – or the last misdemeanor charge on the ladder before you encounter felony offenses. Therefore, the consequences of a conviction are quite punitive and include:

  • A fine up to $6,000
  • Up to one year of county jail
  • Up to one year of hard labor for the county

These consequences can have a serious impact on your future, and don't include any civil action the store may take against you. An experienced Madison County shoplifting defense attorney will be able to fight to protect your rights and for a more favorable outcome in your case.

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Frequently Asked Questions in Shoplifting Cases

In Alabama can I be convicted of shoplifting if I never walked past the cash register or if I put the merchandise back?

Yes, the act of shoplifting is completed when someone takes property with the intent to steal. Thus, a person moves closer to the door with the intent to steal it the crime has been committed. Of course, proving the crime means establishing a person had the intent to steal and for that reason the court will look to some physical manifestation of a person's intent such as concealing the item.

Even if a person changes their mind and puts the item back, this does not “un-commit” the crime. The crime is completed as soon as the property is moved with the intent to steal. Establishing a person's intent under the circumstances may prove difficult prosecution, but the crime itself has been completed as soon as the property has been moved with the intent to steal.

I was stopped for shoplifting Alabama and, after questioning by store detectives I made a statement. They never advise me of my rights. Can my statement be used against me?

When people speak about being advised of their rights, they're talking about those rights established by famous Supreme Court decision called Miranda vs. Arizona. In that case, the United States Supreme Court established a rule that before government agents (such as the police) question a person who is in custody, they must first advise that person of their basic constitutional rights.

Since the law says the person must be advised of their rights when the government seeks to question someone, and since store employees are usually not considered acting on behalf of the government, the statements are often admissible.

There are exceptions to this rule. If for example, a police officer is present during questioning of the detained person, the store investigators may be viewed as acting as agents of the government and the statement may be excluded. Similarly, if a store's loss prevention officer, is a police officer who is working off-duty, then questions by that officer to a detained person who was not advised of their rights would likely result in the statement being excluded.

I'm in Huntsville Municipal Court on a shoplifting charge.  I have a prior conviction for theft.  Am I going to jail?

The decision of whether or not you would face jail time is entirely up to the judge, however, if you have a prior conviction (or convictions) for theft related offense and you are convicted in the Municipal Court the odds that you will actually go to jail increase dramatically.

Given the risks to your freedom, it certainly would seem wise to speak with legal counsel as quickly as possible.

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Seeking Viable Defense Options for Retail Theft in Huntsville

If you have been charged with shoplifting or misdemeanor theft of property in Decatur, Madison, Athens, Albertville, Scottsboro, Hartselle, or the surrounding areas, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Law Offices Of Segal & Segal today. We will make sure your rights are protected while fighting hard to protect your future. Your first consultation is free, so call (256) 533-4529 to schedule yours.