RETAIL THEFT CHARGES IN UTAH
A Retail theft charge is serious
Good people can make dumb mistakes. When you are charged with retail theft, you should seek legal help as soon as possible to preserve evidence and build a defense. The lowest category of retail theft is not something to shrug off, as it can saddle you with hefty fines and land you in jail for a period of up to six months.
A retail theft conviction on your record, even for a misdemeanor, can also have other collateral consequences, as it’s considered a crime of “moral turpitude” (or dishonesty), which could impact your employment, security clearances, professional licenses, gun ownership, immigration, schooling, relationships, etc.
Hoyer Law’s criminal law defense attorney is standing by to defend your rights. If you are currently facing retail theft charges, keep reading to learn more about the law and our services.
Categories of property crimes
Some of the most common property crimes include:
- Retail theft
- Theft by deception or extortion
- Theft of lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered property
- Receiving stolen property (e.g., pawn dealers, coin dealers, etc.)
- Theft of services
- Burglary and aggravated burglary
- Robbery and aggravated robbery
- Forgery and producing false identification
Retail theft and shoplifting
Definition. Shoplifting, known as retail theft in the Utah Code, is defined broadly to include taking a shopping cart off out of the parking lot, removing or altering price tags or labels, an employee/cashier checker doing an “under-ring” for a family member or friend, eating food in the store or carrying merchandise out of the store without paying for it at checkout, putting a higher priced item in the container of a lower priced item, committing refund fraud, etc.
While the prosecution must prove you exercised control over merchandise with the “intent” to deprive or steal the merchandise, you can be charged even if you did not fully carry the theft out by actually removing the merchandise from the store if the prosecution can show you intended to steal it by, e.g., hiding the item in your jacket or bag or altering price tags, etc.
Detention by loss prevention employee. Any merchant who has “probable cause” to believe that a shopper has committed retail theft has several statutory rights in relation to that customer. They can detain that person in a reasonable manner for a reasonable length of time to make inquiries and any reasonable requests with respect to the merchandise, request and verify identification, etc. As long as the merchant acted reasonably under the circumstances and has probable cause for the theft, they have a statutory defense to allegations of false arrest, false imprisonment, unlawful detention, invasion of civil rights, trespass, and defamation of character.
WARNING! IF YOU ARE CAUGHT SHOPLIFTING, DO NOT USE ANY FORCE, PHYSICALLY RESIST, OR STRUGGLE WHILE ATTEMPTING TO FLEE FROM, E.G., THE STORES’ LOSS PREVENTION EMPLOYEE, BECAUSE A MISDEMEANOR RETAIL THEFT CHARGE CAN BECOME A FELONY ROBBERY CASE RESULTING IN POSSIBLE PRISON TIME.
That being said, you are under no legal obligation to make any statements to the merchant or police. In fact, your case will generally be better if you exercise your 5th Amendment right to remain silent.
Punishment. According to Utah state law, the punishment for theft correlates to the value of the stolen item, goods, or services. For example, if you take merchandise advertised at less than $500, the charge is classified as a class B Misdemeanor, punishable up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. (You’ll also likely have to take either Level I or Level II theft classes.) If the merchandise is priced at between $500 and $1,500, the offense is charged as a class A misdemeanor with a jail term up to one year and a fine up to $2,500. You will be charged with a third degree felony if the property is valued between $1,500 and $5,000, with a jail term up to five years and a fine up to $5,000. Any stolen property valued above $5,000 will be charged as a second degree felony with a jail term up to 15 years and a fine up to $10,000.
Enhancement. The reason you do not want a conviction on your record is because it “snowballs.” For example, a theft of merchandise, even merchandise less than $1, will be charged as a third degree felony with a jail term up to 5 years and a fine up to $5,000 if you have two prior convictions for theft in the past ten years.
Civil liability. Merchants have a statutory right to bring separate civil suits against shoplifters for the retail price of the merchandise, whether or not the merchandise was returned or recovered, as well as penalties, court costs, attorney fees, etc. The suit starts with a civil demand letter. Parents or guardians can be jointly liable with the minor for the actual damages and penalties, etc. You really need to retain an attorney to give you advice on the response to the civil suit demand letter.
Our Utah retail theft defense lawyer can help in your defense
The good news is that seeking immediate expert legal defense can significantly reduce your risk of a severe penalty, as we can exploit weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, we know what discovery to request, we have relationships with the prosecutors, we can craft creative and favorable plea deals leading to a dismissal (particularly for first-time offenders), etc.
Hoyer Law offers criminal law defense services and has excellent track record, especially when it comes to retail theft defense. Casey Hoyer is an experienced trial lawyer in multiple district and justice courts in Northern Utah. He offers aggressive, strategic representation for your retail theft charges.