Benefits of Having a Lawyer in a Shoplifting Case


Contrary to what most people have seen in television dramas, law enforcement is rarely flawless, and certainly isn’t able to launch and conclude a competent criminal investigation and prosecution in 44 minutes. This is doubly true in situations where the facts of the case may be less than clear and the involvement of civilians in various capacities may have created more confusion than clarity. 

If you find yourself facing suspicion of shoplifting, and especially if you are facing a misunderstanding based on circumstantial “evidence,” here are some of the many reasons you should consider the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney. 

Inadequate Cause 

By and large, a shoplifting charge starts out with a relatively unsophisticated retail store employee apprehending a relatively unsophisticated suspect based on incredibly weak evidence. The “case” then proceeds to spiral out of control with one side ratcheting up the rhetoric and legal threats while the other does the same. By the time the police get involved, the original so-called “criminal act” has spawned several civil causes of action and nine different accounts of what may or may not have happened depending on which of the 23 witnesses’ stories line up with observable facts. 

Getting even a moderately strong shoplifting case past a competent defense attorney is something most prosecutors won’t bother with, which is why no matter how many cops, witnesses and security guards arrive at the scene, none of it matters until someone like William Hanlon Criminal Defense Lawyer in St Petersburg shows up. 


The very first thing a defense attorney will counsel a client to do is remain silent. When confronted with the potential for a criminal charge, the best advice a suspect can get is to refuse to answer questions and ask for a lawyer. Legally speaking, once a suspect invokes their Sixth Amendment right to counsel, all interrogation must cease. If it doesn’t, any evidence gathered afterwards is likely to be ruled inadmissible. 

If a security guard ignores a request for a lawyer, and they often will, it can put the entire case in jeopardy if it ever gets to trial. This is one of the key reasons prosecutors won’t go anywhere near the criminal equivalent of small claims court. There aren’t many judges or juries with the patience to listen to criminal litigation over who allegedly stole a pair of pants either. 

Motion to Dismiss 

All criminal prosecutions require one common element of the crime, and that is something called “mens rea.” It is a Latin term that means “guilty mind.” In legal terms it means criminal intent. In order to sustain a shoplifting charge, the prosecution must establish the defendant had intent to perform a criminal act. Intent is a tough the thing to prove unless and until the defendant actually completes the theft by leaving the store. Even then, absent credible eyewitness testimony or video, they can claim they forgot or accidentally took merchandise outside. 

Any of these can be grounds for dismissal and can certainly be grounds for hanging a jury. Defense attorneys can easily cast doubt on their client’s intent. Without competent representation, such a defense is much tougher. 

Even if a prosecutor goes after a shoplifter, the chances of the case ending with a verdict are slim. Defense attorneys will almost always find a way to weaken the prosecution to the point where a deal can be struck, and the defendant will end up with a fine, probation or some other outcome that doesn’t require tying up a courtroom. 

However, that outcome depends on competent counsel who can identify where a case is weak and who can pitch a deal to a prosecutor that makes sense. A non-attorney trying to do this on their own will find themselves beset with obstacles and will rarely obtain the outcome they wish. When in doubt, hire a good attorney and let them do their job.

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