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What Happens if You Accidentally Shoplift at Self-Checkout?

July 8, 2022

It could happen to anyone: You’re at the self-checkout in the grocery store scanning your items, and you’re distracted by something. Your kids, your cell phone ringing, another customer asking you to move your cart—and you absentmindedly forget to scan something before putting it in your bag. And what about those large items, like bags of dog food or packages of water bottles, that you might just accidentally leave in the bottom of your cart without ringing them up? If an employee or store security catches you walking out of the store with merchandise you didn’t pay for, you can be charged with theft. 

While you may think that an accident like this can be cleared up quickly, there is at least one Tucson Walmart store that’s been cracking down on shoppers. Don’t be left with a criminal record for an honest mistake. Read on to learn about how this happens, and what the consequences are. 

When is an Accident Considered a Crime? 

While you may know with absolute certainty that you didn’t mean to leave a store with merchandise you didn’t pay for, the store employees, security, and the police do not have any such knowledge. As soon as you walk out the doors of the store with items that were not paid for, you are a thief in the eyes of the law. While the sympathies of individual employees and police officers may lie with you, there is no guarantee, no matter how innocent you may seem, that you won’t be charged with theft. It is possible that you could explain the circumstances to the store manager or police and convince them that you made an innocent mistake, but depending on the number and value of the items you didn’t pay for, it is very likely you will be charged.

Arizona’s Shoplifting Laws

In Arizona, shoplifting can either be a misdemeanor or a felony charge, depending upon the value of the items stolen. The Arizona statute pertaining to shoplifting is ARS §13-1805. This statute defines shoplifting as:

  1. Removing any of the goods from the immediate display or from any other place within the establishment without paying the purchase price; or
  1. Charging the purchase price of the goods to a fictitious person or any person without that person’s authority; or
  1. Paying less than the purchase price of the goods by some trick or artifice such as altering, removing, substituting or otherwise disfiguring any label, price tag or marking; or
  1. Transferring the goods from one container to another; or
  1. Concealment

ARS §13-1802 defines Class 6 Felony Shoplifting is the theft of merchandise with a value of more than $1,000.00. Class 5 Felony Shoplifting is defined as theft of merchandise with a value of $2,000.00 or more, and Class 4 Felony Shoplifting is defined as theft of merchandise using an “artifice, instrument, container, device, or article.”

Consequences of a Shoplifting Charge

The sentencing guidelines for a misdemeanor shoplifting charge include up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $4575, and up to three years of probation. Of course, there can also be aggravating and mitigating circumstances with any charge which can affect sentencing, such as possession of drugs or a weapon at the time of the offense, a previous misdemeanor or felony record, or your immigration status. 

Felony shoplifting has much more severe consequences. Sentencing guidelines for felony shoplifting are much harsher, with prison time ranging from 2-15 years in prison depending upon which Felony Class you’re charged with, and if there are any aggravating factors.

In addition to facing jail or prison time, fines and penalties, attorney’s fees, and probation, you are also dramatically affecting your future. Shoplifting charges can prevent you from getting or keeping a job, attending college, getting scholarships and financial aid, and getting loans. Felony charges can prevent you from being able to vote. And of course, these charges can affect your relationships with friends and family, and affect your ability to retain custody of your children should you go through a divorce or separation.

Contact Janet Altschuler TodayIf you are charged with theft or shoplifting in Arizona, you are entitled to an attorney. Janet Altschuler has over 20 years’ experience in criminal law, and as a former prosecutor with the Pima County Attorney’s Office, she knows what it takes to get a favorable outcome for her clients. If you have been charged with Felony Shoplifting and/or there are aggravating factors that may increase your sentence, it is absolutely crucial that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney like Janet Altschuler who knows Arizona law. Set up a free consultation with our office today or call us at 520-247-1789 or 520-200-5003.

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