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  • What to Do If a Family Member Has Been Accused or Charged with Shoplifting?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    stolen goodsShoplifting is a serious criminal offense that can result in jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. If you or a loved one has been accused of or charged with shoplifting, contact a defense attorney immediately. The penalty for shoplifting is based on the value of the property that your loved one allegedly stole. The higher the value, the more severe the punishment.

    It is in your best interest to speak with a defense attorney, and the sooner you get one involved the better the outcome is likely to be.

    What Is the Penalty for Shoplifting in New Mexico?

    Shoplifting in New Mexico carries various penalties – all dependent on the value of the merchandise stolen. The crime your loved one will be charged with also depends on the merchandise value.

    Therefore, they will not be charged with “shoplifting,” but instead a charge that directly correlates to the value. The following are criminal charges by value:

    While a misdemeanor has fewer fines and jail times, shoplifting an item over $500 results in a fourth-degree felony. Any time someone is charged with a felony, the penalties increase substantially.

    Criminal Penalties Are Not the Only Penalty – Civil May Apply

    While criminal penalties are likely, so are civil penalties. The owner of the property has the right to file a civil lawsuit against your loved one for shoplifting their items. They can sue for the value of the property, unless it was returned undamaged and the owner is able to resell. In addition to suing for the value of the property, the owner can include court costs, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages.

    What Is the Jail Time for Shoplifting?

    Now that you know how shoplifting is classified by value, you may wonder how much jail time your loved one is risking. For misdemeanor petty larceny, a defendant usually does not spend more than 6 months in a county jail. For a fourth-degree felony, your loved one may spend up to 18 months in prison.

    The longest sentence possible is up to 9 years, but that is for a second-degree felony only.

    Prior Convictions May Affect Sentencing

    If your loved one has a criminal record already, especially convictions for theft crimes, that will impact how long they are sentenced to jail. New Mexico does not have a limit on how they apply past convictions. Usually, the court will look back at any misdemeanor and felony convictions in the past 10 years. If there are multiple offenses within that 10-year period, the judge is more likely to label the defendant as a habitual offender. In that case, the judge is most likely going to issue the maximum sentence as opposed to a first-time offender with no criminal record. In addition to assigning the maximum sentence possible, the state allows the judge to add 1 year to a felony offense if the defendant already has one prior felony on their record. The judge is also allowed to add 4 years to their sentence if they have 2 prior felony convictions and up to 8 years if there are 3 or more prior convictions in a 10-year span.

    Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney as Quickly as Possible Is the Best Defense Strategy

    Even if your loved one does not have a criminal record, you should not wait to contact an attorney. The moment they are arrested or even approached by law enforcement regarding an alleged theft crime, you need to hire representation.

    An attorney can protect your loved one from accidentally incriminating themselves and work alongside the prosecution to find a more favorable charge. Likewise, the sooner an attorney gets involved, the faster they can begin working on a defense strategy.

    In theft cases, there are numerous defense strategies available. Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s case, an attorney may be able to argue that:

    • Evidence was collected unlawfully. Law enforcement may not have secured a warrant before entering your home or your loved one’s vehicle, which means any evidence they collected proving their guilt in the shoplifting case might be inadmissible. Without that evidence, it is hard for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your loved one committed the crime.
    • Expectation of ownership applies. Your loved one may have thought they owned the equipment, or they may have purchased that equipment and have a receipt to prove it.
    • Given permission by the owner to remove the items. Your loved one may have oral or written approval by the owner to move or take the property. In this case, no theft has occurred.

    To prove a theft has occurred, prosecutors must show that your loved one intended to deprive the owner of an item of value. Whether that means removing food from the shelves in the grocery store or shoplifting electronics from a retailer, the prosecutor must not only show that the defendant had it in his or her possession, but they did so because they intended to steal it from the rightful owner. Without intent, it becomes hard to prove a theft crime occurred.

    Speak with a Local Defense Team Ready to Fight for Your Loved Ones Rights

    Law enforcement can be quick to judge in shoplifting cases, and they may arrest someone who has a valid reason for possessing property that is not theirs. The moment your loved one becomes a suspect in a shoplifting case, contact the defense team from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices.

    Our team will begin an aggressive defense for your loved one. Whether they are innocent or guilty, everyone deserves the right to a fair trial, and our team works hard to ensure our clients get the most favorable outcome possible in their case.

    To get started, schedule a confidential, free consultation with a defense lawyer by calling our office. You can also request your consultation appointment online by completing our online contact form.