How to Defend Against Virginia Shoplifting Charges 

There are harsh punishments for people convicted of shoplifting in Virginia. However, you could have strong defenses—even if you think you’re guilty. The experienced Manassas criminal defense attorneys at The Wilson Law Firm understand how a conviction like this can affect your life. They’ll strategize on defenses to fight Virginia shoplifting charges so you achieve the best outcome in your criminal case given your situation.

Shoplifting in Virginia - Understanding the Basics and Penalties

Whether charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, the penalties for shoplifting can be severe, ranging from fines to imprisonment. You must understand your rights and potential defenses to avoid these harsh consequences. 

Under Virginia Code § 18.2-103 shoplifting, also known as larceny, is the unlawful taking of merchandise from a retail establishment with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its value. Woman slips champagne into bag as if shoplifting

In Virginia, shoplifting is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor when the goods are valued at less than $1,000 and as an unclassified felony if their value is $1,000 or more. If convicted, you could face these penalties: 

  • Misdemeanor: A jail sentence of up to one year and a fine not to exceed $2,500.
  • Felony: A prison sentence of up to 20 years. 

Defenses Your Manassas Criminal Attorney Might Use to Beat Shoplifting Charges  

It’s crucial to understand that you may have strong defenses to shoplifting charges, even if you believe you committed the crime. Raising these defenses could convince the prosecutor to drop the charges or reduce them to a less severe offense through a plea bargain.  

Understanding these defenses may significantly impact the outcome of your legal proceedings and help you avoid the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record. Here are a few defenses our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at The Wilson Law Firm may be able to use.

Mistaken Identity 

In these cases, our defense strategy involves establishing that you weren’t the person who committed the alleged shoplifting. This defense may require presenting alibi evidence, such as witness statements, or surveillance footage proving that you weren’t at the crime scene. 

No Intent

One key element of shoplifting charges is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the stolen merchandise. If it can be demonstrated that you had no intention to steal or that it was a genuine mistake, this defense may be applicable. For example, asserting a lack of intent could be a viable defense if you absentmindedly left a store without paying for an item. 

Consent of Owner 

If you had the owner's consent to take the merchandise or pay a reduced price, this might serve as a powerful defense. It applies when a store employee or manager explicitly permitted you to take merchandise, even if there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Remember, the effectiveness of these defenses depends on the specifics of your case, and a skilled criminal defense attorney like our legal team provides will tailor the defense strategy to your unique circumstances.

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