Columbia, MD Theft, Shoplifting & Embezzlement Lawyers
Take Every Theft Charge Seriously
Prosecutors often try to act like a theft, shoplifting, or embezzlement charge is not a “big deal” and that you should “not worry.” The truth is the opposite. There are no such things as “small” theft charges since a single conviction can be life-altering. When a prosecutor tries to downplay your shoplifting charge, all they are trying to do is get you to lower your guard and get slammed by a conviction and all of its potential penalties.
To protect your rights, finances, and reputation, you should start by retaining the services of an aggressive Columbia, Maryland theft crime attorney from Portner & Shure, P.A. We have have been defending individuals accused of theft, shoplifting, and embezzlement for more than 25 years. Turn our experience into your advantage by allowing us to represent you as soon as possible.
Call (855) 954-4141 to arrange for our legal services and representation.
Theft & Embezzlement Charges in Maryland
Theft is a generalized term for stealing property, finances, or services under Maryland law. More specific theft laws will vary, such as shoplifting, fraud, and embezzlement. The elements of theft are knowingly and willfully taking the property or services of another person with the intent to deprive the owner of the property or services, assumedly permanently.
The market value of the property or service at the time the theft determines the theft charge severity and the extent of possible penalties. If the stolen property’s value cannot be determined, then the value is instead calculated on what it would reasonably cost to replace it with a similar item. This wrinkle in the law is important because it can be used in favor of both the prosecution and the defense, depending on which party does more research into an item’s assumed value or how difficult it is to replace it.
The potential penalties for many theft crimes in Columbia, Maryland range from:
- 90 days in jail for an item valued less than $100.00
- 18 months in prison or jail for an item valued less than $1,000.00
- 10 years in prison for an item valued between $1,000.00 and $10,000.00
- 15 years in prison for an item valued between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00
- 25 years in prison for an item valued greater than $100,000.00
Should You Worry About Shoplifting Charges?
Shoplifting is one of the more common forms of theft. Most shoplifting cases involve a juvenile stealing a low-value product from a store, such as a candy bar from a convenience mart. The circumstances might not seem to be high stakes, but a conviction can damage the accused’s life just as badly as more serious forms of theft.
Shoplifting also presents an interesting analysis of the law. If someone steals five pieces of merchandise, did they commit one crime or five separate crimes? Under the theft scheme doctrine in Maryland, the prosecuting attorney can choose either option. Additionally, the value of the items can be combined to enhance the potential penalties.
The varying nature of shoplifting charges can complicate a defense case before it even begins. Will you need to defend yourself against multiple charges or just a single allegation? Working with our Columbia shoplifting defense lawyers can help you sort through your options and pick a defense with the best chances of success.
Understanding Embezzlement Charges
Embezzlement is a form of theft that involves stealing property or finances while abusing a position of trust. In most embezzlement cases, the accused must have also had the victim’s permission to access or control the allegedly stolen property. In other words, there must be no use of force or trespassing to commit the crime. Additionally, they must have had the owner’s permission to have control over the money.
One of the more common types of embezzlement occurs when a cashier steals money from the register they have been hired to operate and maintain. As with shoplifting, an embezzlement crime might seem to be “low stakes” but the reality is that a conviction could turn your life upside-down and land you in jail for months or years. Take the charges seriously and team up with a defense attorney as soon as you can.
How to Defend Against Theft, Shoplifting & Embezzlement Charges
The potential defenses available to you after being charged with theft will vary depending on the facts of your case that make it unique. For many theft defense cases, the prosecution can be thrown off-balance if the defendant admits to taking an item but convincingly argues that they did not intend to steal it, but rather wanted to return the item at a later date. The same is true if the defendant reasonably believes they were given permission to take or borrow a piece of property.
A classic example involves two neighbors who have a good relationship with each other. One neighbor borrows the other’s lawnmower, forgets to give it back, and later gets arrested and charged for theft. Can a jury, in good conscience, decide a conviction is justified in such a situation?
Another common defense relies on the lack of proof of possession of a stolen item. In many theft cases, the stolen item is never recovered, and there might not even be clear evidence that it ever existed. If there is tangible property to use as evidence of theft, then reaching a conviction could be impossible with a strongly built defense case.