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What Are Some Defenses for Shoplifting?

Defenses for Shoplifting

Shoplifting allegations can carry severe penalties like hefty fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record. Even mistaken or wrongful accusations can be incredibly damaging. For those accused of retail theft, there are a variety of legal defenses that may help get charges reduced or even dismissed. Understanding common shoplifting defenses allows individuals to protect their rights and avoid unfair punishment if faced with allegations of shoplifting.

Common Shoplifting Defenses

The most effective legal defenses against shoplifting charges include:

Lack of Intent

One of the most common defenses argues the accused did not possess criminal intent to steal merchandise. Shoplifting requires prosecutors to establish intent to deprive the owner of property permanently without paying. Situations like forgetting an item at the bottom of the cart, intending to pay but leaving by mistake, or unknowingly having merchandise stuck to a purse or coat lack criminal intent. With no intent to steal, it provides a solid defense.

Mistaken Identity

Sometimes store personnel or anti-theft technology makes mistakes in identifying alleged shoplifters. Camera angles, obstructions, or similarities in appearance could result in accusing the wrong person. This provides a mistaken identity defense against wrongful allegations – evidence must show the accused is the perpetrator beyond reasonable doubt. This defense may also succeed when a friend or relative was responsible for the theft without the accused’s knowledge.


Shoplifters who believe they had consent or permission to take store products may be able to claim a consent defense. Consent can apply when a store employee or manager approved taking the item without paying, or when the shoplifter planned to pay but did not yet have the opportunity when confronted. It shows the accused did not knowingly take the merchandise unlawfully. However, consent from random employees may not provide a sufficient defense.

Hiring a Defense Attorney

Our specialized defense attorneys have extensive experience handling shoplifting charges in local courts. We know how to craft the strongest defense to create reasonable doubt of guilt, whether it is demonstrating lack of intent, mistaken identity, or consent. Our criminal defense attorneys can also advise the accused on rights against self-incrimination, review evidence for procedural errors, negotiate reduced charges with the prosecution, and may ultimately be able to achieve dismissal of shoplifting charges where appropriate. With such high stakes, legal expertise offers protection.


What is one of the most common defenses used against shoplifting charges?

One very common shoplifting defense argues the accused did not have the requisite intent to permanently deprive the owner of the merchandise – such as if an item was accidentally forgotten in the cart.

What should you do if falsely accused of shoplifting?

If wrongly accused, immediately contact defense counsel, do not admit guilt or provide any statements, gather evidence of mistaken identity, and leverage consent or lack of intent defenses.

How can a lawyer defend against shoplifting charges?

A lawyer can raise defenses like lack of intent or mistaken identity, review evidence for procedural violations, negotiate reduced charges or dismissal, and advocate for the accused in court.

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