DC Shoplifting Lawyer

Although it may not seem like a serious offense, shoplifting charges in DC can carry a number of different penalties and end up on your criminal record influencing things such as employement and education. As a result, it is important to put forth the strongest defense possible by calling a DC shoplifting lawyer as soon as you are charged. A theft lawyer in DC can investigate the facts being alleged, prepare you for what to expect, and begin negotiations with the government. To begin planning your defense, call and schedule a consultation today.

Shoplifting Laws in DC

In general, taking merchandise from stores with the intention to permanently keep the merchandise constitutes shoplifting in DC. For example, taking clothing off the hangers in a department store and walking out of the store without paying for the items constitutes shoplifting. It is also considered shoplifting if someone switches price tags or alters labels to pay a lower price for an item.

Elements of Shoplifting

There are three elements of shoplifting which the government is required to prove to sustain a conviction for shoplifting. The government must prove that the person knowingly took possession of property that was the property of another person, and being offered for sale with the intention to take the property without paying for it.

It is important to note that the government must prove the defendant took the property knowingly and not by mistake. The government can use circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant took property and not by mistake by showing that the defendant removed tags or placed the items in a purse or a backpack. However, an experienced shoplifting lawyer in DC may be able to use this to build a defense for a client.


If someone is convicted of shoplifting in DC, the maximum penalties a judge could sentence them to are 90 days in jail, a fine of $500, or both. Depending on the person’s criminal history, it is also possible that they are sentenced to probation instead of jail time.

Additionally, because shoplifting cases are prevalent in DC, these cases often go to trial especially if the stores want to prosecute for the crime.

Private Security and Shoplifting Charges

If a private security officer has probable cause to believe that a person has shoplifted, it is legal for the store to detain that person until law enforcement arrives or until the store releases them.

If someone is detained for suspicion of shoplifting, it is best to cooperate with the private security officer and wait for law enforcement to arrive.

Can Security Be Used as Witnesses at Trial?

If the case goes to trial, the private security officer may be subpoenaed by the government to testify as to what he or she witnessed. Since stores and businesses want to prevent shoplifting in their own stores, the store employee, manager, or security officer will come to court to act as a witness.

Benefits of a DC Shoplifting Attorney

A shoplifting attorney in DC can help a person develop a trial strategy and defenses to their shoplifting charge. An attorney can also help negotiate a good resolution for the person that may not involve jail time or the risk of being convicted at a trial.