There are few things more humiliating than being arrested for a crime such as shoplifting. Many people plead guilty, hoping the charge will just go away. Unfortunately, pleading guilty will have the opposite effect, resulting in a permanent criminal record. To minimize the effect of the arrest on your life, you should talk to an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible.
For the past two decades, the attorneys at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates have defended people accused of shoplifting and other crimes in Baltimore, Catonsville, Annapolis, Arbutus, and Bel Air, Maryland. My goal in a shoplifting case is to prevent a mistake from resulting in a criminal record that will follow you around for the rest of your life.
A Serious Crime in Maryland
Shoplifting less than $100 in merchandise is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. However, the potential consequences quickly escalate if the items you are accused of taking are more expensive.
Shoplifting $100 to $1,000 in merchandise is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $500 fine. Shoplifting more than $1,000 is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The value of the item you are accused of stealing is determined by its retail price, not what the store paid for the item.
If this is your first shoplifting offense, you may be eligible for probation before judgment, which can resolve the charges without the stigma of a conviction. If you successfully complete the terms of the probation, you can answer “no” if you are asked on a job application if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
In Maryland, a merchant can also seek to collect damages and/or civil penalties for alleged shoplifting and employee theft that is independent of the criminal justice process. The merchant will often send out a civil demand letter. Some retailers, particularly larger retailers, are exercising this authority by escorting alleged shoplifters (including employees) to back rooms and handing demand letters to alleged shoplifters prior to the arrival of law enforcement or even if the merchandise is returned to the merchant.
In some of these cases, the alleged shoplifters may have been wrongfully accused and are never charged with a crime but still receive demand letters from law firms and collection firms employed by retailers to collect these damages and penalties.
Finding a Lawyer for Retail in Baltimore, Maryland
If you face criminal charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with offices in Arbutus and Catonsville to fight your shoplifting or theft case. Call James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates before you talk to the police or anyone else.
Our lawyers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To contact them for a free initial consultation call 443-709-9999 today.