Published on 5/24/2022, 4:16:00 PM
Going to court for shoplifting in Maryland
If you or someone you love has been charged with shoplifting charges in Maryland, you may be wondering what to expect from Court.
This article will provide some basics about shoplifting charges, how best to prepare for Court, and what type of evidence the State of Maryland typically presents in shoplifting cases.
Is shoplifting theft?
All shoplifting cases in Maryland are charged under Maryland's theft statute. There are felony, and misdemeanor versions of theft in Maryland.
The charges are brought based upon the value of the property alleged to have been taken. Often stores provide Police Officers with a dummy receipt for the items taken, and Police use this value to issue charges.
Does shoplifting result in a warrant?
Most Maryland theft cases are charged by summons, meaning no warrant is issued. A person receives a paper copy of a notice to appear, and a Court date for their first appearance in the mail.
Occasionally, warrants are issued if a person is non compliant, has a shoplifting history, fled the scene, or has more charges than a simple shoplifting.
An officer has the option to ask for a warrant in any criminal case, they are not bound to ask for a summons.
What types of theft charges come with shoplifting?
Maryland theft charges come in many varieties. For the purposes of shoplifting cases, typically theft charges are brought. All theft charges in Maryland carry the potential for jail time, along with a criminal record and fines. The specifics of each charge is contained in the Maryland criminal code, Section 7-104. The penalties for shoplifting will depend on the types of charges you have, and your prior record.
Misdemeanor theft charges include:
Theft under $100 Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days of incarceration and a $500 fine
Theft: $100 To Under $1,500 punishable by up to six months of incarceration and a $500 fine
Felony theft charges include:
Theft of $1,500 to under $25,000 Felony punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine
Theft of $25,000 to under $100,000 Felony punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine
Theft over $100,000 Felony punishable by 20 years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine
How should I prepare for Court?
The most important thing to do before Court is consult with an attorney. Theft charges are criminal in nature, and will be prosecuted by a professional prosecutor working for the State.
It would be foolish to go up against an organized prosecution on your own; however, a Judge may find you've given up your right to get an attorney if you appear in Court without a criminal defense attorney or public defender.
What court is my shoplifting case in?
Maryland shoplifting cases are usually brought in the District Court, where a person is entitled to a bench trial before a Judge. You may be eligible to request a jury trial, depending on if you've been charged with a theft with a value of over $100. Maryland District Courts have jurisdiction over both misdemeanor and felony theft cases, hence why most cases end up in District Court.
If you've been charged with felony theft in Maryland, you will not be entitled to a preliminary hearing in District Court.
All cases in Maryland's district court are set for a trial, meaning that you should be ready to defend yourself at your first Court date. Bringing a theft lawyer with you is key, along with giving that lawyer an opportunity to review the evidence that the State intends to use against you.
Do I need a lawyer for shoplifting charges?
The short answer to this question is YES. You need a lawyer for a Maryland shoplifting case, as all Maryland theft cases are criminal actions that could have long term consequences like jail time, a conviction on your record, and extensive fines.
Every person has a right to represent themselves, but that does not mean it's a good idea. If you've been charged with a criminal act in Maryland, you're entitled to an attorney, even if you cannot afford one.
If you cannot afford an attorney, you can apply for the services of the Office of the Public Defender. Most criminal defense attorneys in Maryland offer free consultations, which may give you a good idea of if you need an attorney for your Maryland shoplifting case.
What type of evidence will the State present?
The criminal defense attorneys with FrizWoods have handled countless shoplifting cases, and are aware of most of the common types of evidence we see in these cases. Below is a short list of the most frequent evidence offered by the State in these Maryland criminal cases.
1. Body worn camera
Police Departments across Maryland have begun to introduce body worn cameras to their officers. This body worn camera usually shows the Officers interaction with store employees, and any interaction the Officer may have had with the Defendant.
Body worn camera can be essential in cross examining police officers, and provide a birds eye view into how the Officer investigated the case. It may also provide your lawyer with an opportunity to evaluate how an Officer intends to testify in Court, based upon statements they may have made to other officers, or witnesses at the scene.
2. Police Reports
Police reports aren't admissible in Court; however, they are provided by the State in advance of Court. Your Maryland theft attorney will review those reports, which give you an idea of how the State might prove their case. Additionally, they may give rise to additional defenses, or flaws in the prosecution.
3. Witness Statements
Shoplifting cases are usually proved through third party witnesses. Most of the time, an Officer only arrives after the theft occurred. Thus, that Officer must rely upon another witness to the theft to charge their case.
These third party witnesses are typically store employees. The employees are required to come to Court to testify as to what they've seen, absent other evidence of a theft.
4. Loss Prevention Officers
Most big box stores, like Walmart, employ dedicated anti-shoplifting employees called "Loss Prevention Officers" or LPOs. These employees watch security footage live, and attempt to stop shoplifters before they leave the store. They will try to estimate the value of the property taken, and provide the officer with an idea of the value of the theft.
Loss prevention officers may try to convince someone to remain at the scene, or incriminate themselves with an oral or written statement. Unlike Police Officers, LPOs can use coercion and do not need to inform you of your right to remain silent.
5. Surveillance Footage
Nearly every criminal lawyer has watched countless hours of surveillance footage in shoplifting cases. Most stores have high tech cameras with high quality zoom and multiple angles. Often this footage is used by the State in a prosecution for a theft charge. A qualified theft lawyer will know how to keep this footage out of Court, depending on the facts of your Maryland criminal case.
6. Statements of the Defendant
It is common for a Defendant to make a statement, or even a confession, in a theft case. Most theft lawyers know how to exclude these statements. Having said that, all statements of a Defendant are admissible in a criminal case, unless they are suppressed by a criminal defense attorney. Maryland law provides for multiple avenues to suppress statements, and these types of motions are facts specific to your case.
Could I go to jail for shoplifting?
Jail time is a real possibility in shoplifting cases. If you have prior convictions for theft, or a lengthy criminal record, some Judges will give a sentence involving jail time. The criminal penalties for theft range from months in jail, to up to years in prison. The possibility for jail time is something you should discuss with a criminal lawyer during a free consultation.
If you're facing shoplifting charges, contact us today for a free case evaluation. All of our free case consultations are protected by attorney client privilege and conducted by a Maryland criminal defense attorney.