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b2ap3_thumbnail_shoplift_20191102-040045_1.jpgShoplifting is an all too common crime, but just because it occurs regularly does not mean that law enforcement does not take it seriously. If you have been arrested and charged with shoplifting, you need an experienced attorney on your side to make sure that your rights are protected. Having any kind of charge on your record can cause problems for you later on down the road.

Dollar Amount Matters

Shoplifting falls under Connecticut’s larceny law, in which ‘larceny’ is used as an umbrella term to cover many different theft crimes. Its rough definition is when someone intentionally takes items from a store or other ‘mercantile establishment’ without intending on paying the advertised price for the goods. It can be confusing to some, but if you have been charged with a theft crime, the charge will likely be larceny, even though it is technically a more specific offense.

The value of the goods that are taken usually determines the severity of the charge - there are six different degrees of larceny, with varying degrees of fines and jail time possible. The most common arrests for these types of crimes are the misdemeanor offenses; fourth, fifth and sixth-degree larceny charges do not yield much jail time - less than one year - but the fines can add up, as well as having to comply with any other type of restriction placed on you by the court.

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CT defense lawyerThe category of theft crimes covers quite a lot of legal real estate, but across the board, it is reasonable to say that none of the offenses under that umbrella should ever be taken lightly. Theft charges and convictions can reflect on your general character, and can actively harm future prospects for things like renting a home or getting a new job. If you have been charged with shoplifting or any other kind of theft crime in Connecticut, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help with your case.

Multiple Theft Crimes

In some states, simple theft is a different crime from, for example, receiving stolen property or shoplifting. In Connecticut, they are all grouped under the ‘umbrella’ of larceny, which in turn is defined as wrongfully “tak[ing], obtain[ing], or withhold[ing]” property from a person with the intent to deprive them of it or to take it for yourself. The different theft crimes have different criteria, but if you are charged with, for example, embezzlement, the actual charge will be larceny in the first, second, or third degree.

Other examples of Connecticut theft crimes include:

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CT defense lawyerWhen a person is on another person’s property without permission, it is generally in the service of committing a crime, like burglary. This is not always true - but even when it is not, you may still be on the proverbial hook for the crime of criminal trespass. It is important that you understand your or your child’s entry onto private land may still rise to the level of criminality, and if it does, to react accordingly.

Three Degrees of Trespass

There are three degrees of criminal trespass under Connecticut law, and all hinge on the issue of intent. If you specifically ignore an explicit communication advising you that you are trespassing (or will be if you enter the land), but you enter or refuse to leave regardless of that fact, you will be charged with first-degree criminal trespass, which is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, plus a fine of up to $2,000 and court costs. Second-degree trespass does not involve any kind of explicit communication and is a class B misdemeanor, and third-degree trespass deals only with those caught entering onto private land to hunt or fish, which is a class C misdemeanor.

It can be easy to confuse criminal trespass with burglary, as both require entry onto someone else’s land without express permission. However, in order to be charged with burglary, you must not only enter onto the land; you must enter into a “building” or a “dwelling” with the specific intent to commit a crime. Criminal trespass does not require the intent to commit a crime - only the intent to remain on the land. The distinction is fine, but it is quite important, given that the minimum sentence for burglary is equivalent to the maximum sentence for criminal trespass.

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CT defense lawyerConnecticut has a very wide-ranging larceny statute, that encompasses quite a few different theft crimes, including retail theft (shoplifting) and embezzlement. Because the statute is so broad, it can seem a bit overwhelming to those charged with a larceny crime, but in truth, the law is usually more simple than it appears. If you have been charged with larceny, understanding the specifics of the law and what you might be facing can help demystify the process.

The Umbrella Is Wide

Connecticut law defines larceny as having the intent to either permanently deprive another person of property, or to appropriate it for themselves, and physically taking or withholding that property from its rightful owner. While other states specifically define different theft crimes like extortion or embezzlement under their own statutes, Connecticut classifies them all as theft crimes, under the wide umbrella of larceny. In other words, the law defines each theft crime as being a type of larceny, rather than as specific and individual crimes.

The key part of a larceny charge is intent - if the state cannot prove that you intended to permanently retain another person’s property, they have not proven all the elements of their case, and it is not always easy to illustrate intent one way or the other. This is a very common defense that is offered in cases that involve theft from a private person or entity; a defendant can argue that they merely borrowed the property and intended to return it.

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CT defense lawyerVery often, shoplifting gets painted as a crime perpetrated by juveniles or others who do it to test limits. However, sometimes there are mental health-related reasons why a person might shoplift, or sometimes, the entire episode may genuinely be a mistake or a misunderstanding. If you have been charged with shoplifting, speaking to a knowledgeable attorney may help in the whole matter being resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Serious Consequences

The penalties for shoplifting tend to vary with the value of the items stolen. If you steal items whose total adds up to $500 or less, you will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, where the penalty is anywhere up to 1 year in jail, plus fines and costs. Comparatively, if you steal items worth over $20,000, you are guilty of a Class B felony, which may be punishable with up to 20 years in jail, plus a $15,000 fine. Some charges, especially those which carry misdemeanor sentences, may be plea-bargained or you may be granted the right to complete a pretrial diversion program, especially if this is a first offense. However, those whose thefts are expensive enough to be charged as felonies may face serious time.

In addition to any consequences imposed by the state, Connecticut law also allows the business where the shoplifting took place to seek restitution and other costs from you in a civil proceeding. Businesses are allowed to seek reasonable recompense from shoplifters, such as covering the costs of copying tapes and other evidence for trial, as well as replenishing any stock or any costs incurred in security measures (even the costs of arresting you).

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