What is Shoplifting in Arizona?

Shoplifting is one of the most common types of theft crimes in Arizona. It is criminalized under Arizona law A.R.S. 13-1805, and it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. A shoplifting conviction can result in jail time as well as serious professional and personal consequences. If you have been charged with shoplifting, having your case reviewed by a skilled shoplifting lawyer can give you the best chance to avoid a conviction and steep penalties.

A.R.S. § 13-1805 Defined

Under Arizona’s shoplifting law,

A person commits if, while in an establishment in which merchandise is displayed for sale, the person knowingly obtains such goods of another with the intent to deprive that person of such goods by:

  • (1) Removing any of the goods from the immediate display or from any other place within the establishment without paying the purchase price; or
  • (2) Charging the purchase price of the goods to a fictitious person or any other person without that person’s authority; o
  • (3) 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
  • (4) Transferring the goods from one container to another; or
  • (5) Concealment.

Misdemeanor Shoplifting

Shoplifting property with a value of less than $1000 is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor, except under the following circumstances:

  • A person uses an artifice, instrument, container, device or other article to facilitate the shoplifting.
  • The defendant has been convicted of two or more offenses in the past five years involving burglary, shoplifting, robbery, organized retail theft, or theft.
  • The property shoplifted is a firearm.
  • The shoplifting was part of a “continuing criminal episode.”
  • The shoplifting was done to further or assist any criminal street gang.

Generally, for a first-time offense, a defendant may be eligible for probation or a diversion program, for misdemeanor shoplifting.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Shoplifting

If the shoplifting is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor, a defendant faces the following potential penalties:

  • $2,500 in fines;
  • Up to 6 months’ jail.

Felony Shoplifting

Shoplifting may also be either a class 4, 5, or 6 felony offense under the following circumstances:

Class 4 felony:

  • The person shoplifting used an artifice, instrument, container, device, or other article to facilitate the shoplifting;
  • The person shoplifting has been convicted of at least two other theft-related offenses in the past 5 years.

Class 5 felony:

  • The value of the property is $2,000 or more;
  • The shoplifting occurred as part of a criminal episode (crime spree);
  • The shoplifting was done to further a criminal street gang.

Class 6

  • The value of the property is $1000 or more but less than $2000;
  • The person shoplifts a gun.

Penalties for Felony Shoplifting

The potential penalties for felony shoplifting depends on whether it is charged as a class 4, 5, or 6 felony, as well as the number of prior felonies the defendant has.

Shoplifting charged as a class 4 felony:

  • First-time offender: .1 to 3.75 years in prison
  • Defendant with one prior felony: 2.25 to 7.5 years
  • Defendant with two prior felonies: 6 to 15 years

Shoplifting charged as a class 5 felony:

  • First-time offender: .5 to 2.5 years in prison
  • Defendant with one prior felony: 1 to 3.75 years
  • Defendant with two prior felonies: 3 to 7.5 years

Shoplifting charged as a class 6 felony:

  • First-time offender: .33 to 2 years in prison
  • Defendant with one prior felony: .75 to 2.75 years
  • Defendant with two prior felonies: 2.25 to 5.75 years

How Does the Prosecution Try to Prove a Person “Knowingly” Shoplifted?

The shoplifting statute requires the state to prove a defendant “knowingly” shoplifted. But how can the state prove that the act of shoplifting was “knowing” and that is wasn’t just an accident? Arguing that the shoplifting was unintentional is a common defense to the crime of shoplifting, but there are some obstacles that must be overcome to establish this defense.

ARS 13-1805 specifically states that a person is presumed to “knowingly” commit shoplifting if he:

  • (1) Knowingly conceals on himself or another person unpurchased merchandise of any retail establishment while within the store.
  • (2) Uses an “artifice, instrument, container, device or other article” to facilitate the shoplifting.

Concealing merchandise therefore creates a “presumption” that the act was knowing. However, a defendant can present evidence to refute this presumption. Because the facts of each shoplifting case are unique, a defense attorney is best equipped to determine what evidence might refute the presumption of guilt after listening to the details of the case.

Defenses to Shoplifting

  • Lack of Intent: Under Arizona’s shoplifting statute, a person only can commit shoplifting if they intend to deprive the retailer of the items stolen. If the defendant lacks the necessary intent, then no shoplifting has occurred.

Example: A shopper has his hands full and temporarily puts an item in his pocket so that he doesn’t drop it. The shopper forgets that the item is in his pocket–perhaps because it is small, and he continues to shop after placing the item in his pocket. He then walks out the store and is charged with shoplifting. If the shopper had purchased other items when checking out, but forgot to put the small item in his pocket on the checkout stand, there is a good defense to saying the theft wasn’t intentional. Afterall, the shopper paid for some items, so it can be argued that he made a genuine mistake.

  • Lack of knowledge: One possible way that you can be charge with shoplifting is by knowingly switching the price tags of merchandise so that you pay less than the actual purchase price. But what if somebody else already switched the price tag of an item without you knowing and then you purchase the item? A shopper does not necessarily check the price tag of each item to make sure that it matches the price displayed. It is usually just assumed that the price on the item matches the displayed price on the shelf. Videotape surveillance of the store can be helpful in showing that somebody else and not the shopper was the person who switched the items. Also, the fact that other items had a correct price tag and the shopper paid full price for those items can tend to prove the shopper is honest and did not intend to pay less than the full price for the item in question.

How Salwin Law Can Help You

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting, a skilled criminal defense attorney at the Salwin Law Group can help you with your case today. Stewart Salwin provides free consultations on criminal charges. Call today to see how we can help you get the best possible defense to your charges.

Call Salwin Law Group PLLC today at (480) 702-1789, or contact us online to make your appointment.