Shoplifting Lawyer Roanoke VA

Shoplifting Lawyer Roanoke VA

If you have been charged shoplifting in Roanoke, Virginia, the decision to hire a lawyer may be the most important decision that you make.

There is a good chance that this is your first criminal case. You have not been through something like this before, and you are wondering what can be done to protect your record for work or school. Do you have any defenses? Can you avoid jail? Or a conviction?

Shoplifting Law in Virginia

  1. What is shoplifting?
    1. Petit Larceny (value of goods below $200)
      1. Class 1 Misdemeanor
      2. Up to 12 months jail and/or $2,500 fine
    2. Grand Larceny (value of goods above $200)
      1. Class 6 Felony
      2. One to five years incarceration, or, up to 12 months jail and/or $2,500 fine
  2.  Elements
    1. Take, remove, or conceal
    2. Items from a retail establishment
    3. Past all points of sale

Overview of Roanoke Shoplifting Cases

Generally, shoplifting cases arise when a witness – usually, a Loss Prevention Officer at a retail store – observes a person enter the store, conceal items on their person or in their bag, and then exit the store without paying for those items. If the total value of the items is less than $200, then the person would be charged with a petit larceny. If the value of the items is greater than $200, then they would be charged with a felony.

When the person exits the store, or attempts to exit the store, the Loss Prevention Officer is not permitted to arrest the person. These security officers are store employees, not police officers, and do not have the power to detain someone for purposes of arrest. They can, however, ask that a person go with them voluntarily to the store security office for the purpose of retrieving the allegedly stolen items and to contact police.

Then, an officer with the Roanoke County Police Department or the Roanoke City Police Department would arrive on scene, discover what happened, and either issue a summons (ticket) for shoplifting, or take the person into custody to obtain a warrant (for arrest) for shoplifting.

Depending on the amount that was stolen, and the person’s prior criminal record, the person would either be released on their own recognizance, or released after paying a bond, or held without bond. Most people are able to get bond for Roanoke shoplifting if they have no prior criminal convictions and strong ties to the community.

Going to Court for Roanoke Shoplifting

Once the case is filed in court, it is up to the Roanoke City Commonwealth Attorney or the Roanoke County Commonwealth Attorney, i.e. prosecutors, to prove each of the elements of shoplifting beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict someone of the crime. The elements of shoplifting are:

  • Willfully concealed or took possession, or
  • Altered the price tag, or
  • Transferred from one container to another
  • A store’s merchandise
  • Without permission

Prosecutors will prove these elements in a couple different ways. Perhaps the person admitted to stealing the items, i.e. a confession. Or, the store video shows the person stuffing the items into a backpack or bag or under clothing, then leaving the store. The value of the items must be proven, too, if the charge is a felony. Then, it will be up to the judge or jury to fix a sentence.

Penalties for a Roanoke Shoplifting Charge

Under Virginia law, shoplifting is charged as a larceny. There are two types of larceny, petit larceny (less than $200), which is a misdemeanor crime, and grand larceny (more than $200), which is a felony crime.

For petit larceny, the potential punishment is zero to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500. The charge would appear as a misdemeanor on your record.

For grant larceny, the potential punishment is one year to five years in jail, or, in the discretion of the judge or jury hearing your case, a term of zero to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500. The charge would appear as a felony on your record.

Even though law fixes a punishment in a range, Roanoke shoplifting cases depend greatly on the jurisdiction (Roanoke City or Roanoke County) where the case is filed. For example, if the shoplifting allegedly took place at Valley View Mall, it will be a Roanoke City case. If it took place at Kroger in Cave Spring, it will be a Roanoke County case.

Typical punishments:

  1. The punishment for first offense shoplifting varies locally by jurisdiction.
    1. Montgomery County – First offender program, shoplifting diversion class, taken under advisement 12 months, dismissed
    2. Roanoke County – Conviction and active jail of 30 days with 26 days suspended
    3. Roanoke City – Conviction and active jail of 30 days with 26 days suspended, or, in lieu of jail, community cleanup for two days

If this is your first offense for shoplifting, the prosecuting offices take different approaches. For example, in Lynchburg or Blacksburg, you may be eligible to take a shoplifting diversion class, have the charge taken under advisement for a year, and without any further violations, the charge could be dismissed.

In Roanoke City and Roanoke County, however, the prosecuting offices tend not to allow charges to be dismissed as a matter of office policy. The prosecutor will insist on a conviction for shoplifting in every case – even first offenses – which is different than how other jurisdictions handle these cases.

Additionally, the Roanoke prosecuting offices will ask for jail time in every cases, even first offenses. The minimum jail sentence for first offenses tend to be at least a weekend in jail. This is a strict approach that has been adopted by prosecutors in Roanoke shoplifting cases no matter the amount allegedly stolen or the person’s criminal record.

Defenses to a Roanoke Shoplifting Charge

Notwithstanding the approach taken by Roanoke prosecutors – a conviction and active jail time – in every shoplifting cases, there are defenses to the charge of shoplifting.

First, you can launch an attack on the arrest itself. When a person is accused of shoplifting, they are generally seized by an officer upon leaving a store, perhaps during a traffic stop or by an officer. The police must comply with the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment to have probable cause to search an individual.

Second, you can attach the evidence in the case. You might have been falsely identified as stealing the merchandise, when, in fact, someone else in the store, i.e. a family member or someone in your group, took the items and put them in the cart without your knowledge. Or, it might be a case of mistake or lack of intent. Or, the prosecutor might fail to present sufficient evidence to prove the value of the items to qualify the case as a felony, or might fail to present sufficient evidence from a store employee.

Finally, you can challenge the case on mitigation grounds. Even if you admitted to the shoplifting offense at the time of arrest, you can nonetheless demonstrate to the court that this was an is0lated incident and therefore the court should be lenient in your case. Examples of mitigation evidence could include a clean criminal record; community involvement; volunteer service; strong work or school history; letters of recommendation; and, other evidence demonstrating your good character, to justify a more lenient sentence.

Contact a Roanoke Shoplifting Lawyer

You do not have to face this situation alone. If you have been charged with shoplifting in Roanoke, please do not hesitate to contact my office for a free consultation by calling (540) 585-1776.