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Laws Against Stealing

A shoplifter steals a pair of jeans

What is considered stealing?

Stealing is the act of taking a person's property without their consent and not returning it. Known by many other names, stealing is also known as thieving, filching, looting, shoplifting, larceny, burglary, embezzlement, and robbery. Stealing is a crime, and depending upon what a person steals will greatly depend upon the punishment issued. Jails and prisons are full of people who steal, but these people usually are repeat offenders and choose not to stop stealing. Below are a few of the more popular questions about stealing charges and stealing laws.

If caught shoplifting, can the store press additional charges for shoplifting if they have footage of prior thefts by the person including the most recent theft?

Case Details: The person stole $60worth of merchandise.

If the store has footage of you and can identify you from previous thefts, it is very possible that you would be charged for two separate counts of stealing. You may not know what you will be charged for until you appear in court for the arraignment.

Usually, first time offenders of stealing with no prior history with the justice system are treated fairly. In your situation, the value of the merchandise that you took is under $150 and would be considered a summary offense. It is possible to receive up to 90 days, however more than likely you won't spend any time in jail for the offense. You may be eligible for a certain type of probation called ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition. If you take ARD, upon completion of your probation, this situation would be dismissed. Another option would be to pay the fine and/or community service, however this would remain on your criminal record for up to 5 years, at which time it would be expunged so long as there in no further issues with the court.

Does the law allow a person to be arrested for stealing on the word of an employee if there is no video evidence?

You can be arrested if there is a witness to the crime. If the employee saw you steal something and reports it, the police can arrest you based on probable cause. Probable cause is the belief that a person has committed a crime based on witness accounts or evidence based on an investigation. With the employee stating that they witnessed the theft, the police would have enough probable cause to arrest you for stealing.

It will take more than the employee saying that they saw you steal to convict you of the charges. The prosecutor would have to convince a jury that you are guilty of stealing beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor has nothing more than the employee's statement, it may be possible to avoid the charges if after cross-examination, the jury finds the employee's statements less than solid. If this happen, there is room for doubt, and the jury would have to find you not guilty of the charges. If in fact, you didn't steal anything, you will need to have an attorney to assist you through the hearing. If you don't have an attorney at the arraignment, you need to plead not guilty and ask for a public defender if you won't be able to afford an attorney. If you are appointed a public defender, you will meet the attorney at the next hearing.

You shouldn't attempt to handle this case without an attorney. The outcome of the trial may affect you for years and the assistance of an attorney can shorten those affects considerably. More than likely you will only receive probation and maybe a fine, as long as what you stole wasn't extremely valuable. However, it is important to have an attorney represent you in the trial.

Is it legal to trap an employee stealing from others' lockers by placing marked bills and then searching all employees before leaving for the day?

This may be legal, however, another option would be to install a policy that if there is suspicion of theft, the person in question will be expected to empty their pockets. This is much more effective in stopping theft in the workplace.

You have the right as an employer, to take steps in preventing the theft of your property and that of your employees. In order to perform searches of the employees, you need to install a policy that allows for searches. You want the policy in place before attempting to "force' a search. You don't want to get into a situation where an employee refuses to be searched and you fire them. You may be facing a law suit for wrongful termination.

Install the employee search policy, post it so that all employees are aware of the new policy and the reason for the policy. Once everyone has had time to understand the new policy, if you still wish to plant the marked bills and conduct a search, you will be protected under the policy for a reasonable search, and you would have a much better case if someone was to refuse the search.

Stealing can land you in jail and the crime will probably remain on your criminal record for some time. Regardless of the reason, if a person intentionally takes something that doesn't belong to them, they are stealing. If you have any doubts about questions about the punishment for stealing, you should contact an Expert in Criminal Law to clarify the punishment for stealing.

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