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McIntosh Law | Advocates for The Accused Since 1993

Speak With Our Attorneys –

Phone: 941-306-3230

Can you receive a criminal charge for accidental shoplifting?

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Have you ever walked out of a store and realized you forgot to pay for an item? It can happen to anyone, and it is usually an honest mistake.

If you find yourself in this situation, though, you might understandably question whether such an innocent lapse can lead to criminal charges.

Understanding unintentional shoplifting

Shoplifting, even if accidental, is generally considered a criminal offense. The law is clear that taking merchandise from a store without paying for it is a violation, regardless of intent. While intent plays a crucial role in many criminal cases, shoplifting laws often focus on the act itself.

Elements of shoplifting charges

To receive a shoplifting charge, certain elements must be present. There must be evidence of taking merchandise without paying for it. Additionally, the prosecution needs to establish that the act was intentional. However, the crucial point to note is that unintentional actions, such as absentmindedly leaving a store with an item, can still result in charges.

Legal consequences

Facing a shoplifting charge, even for an unintentional act, can bring about legal consequences. These consequences may include fines, community service or even probation. The severity of the penalties often depends on the value of the stolen item and the individual’s previous criminal record.

Mitigating factors

In some cases, demonstrating that the act was truly unintentional can be a mitigating factor. Factors such as forgetfulness, distraction or other innocent reasons for not paying may go under consideration during legal proceedings.

Statistics indicate that Florida retailers lost $5.421 billion in revenue due to theft or shoplifting in 2022. While the very mention of theft implies malicious criminal intention, the reality is that some of these losses were due to accidents.

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