Shoplifting Laws in Arizona – How to Drop Charges

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Many Arizonans think that shoplifting is minor. However, being caught shoplifting could expose you to potentially severe penalties. Depending on the worth of the goods involved and whether a firearm was involved will likely determine how serious your offense will be. 

If you have been charged with shoplifting under ARS 13-1805, you need to speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer at the Shah Law Firm as soon as possible.

We can review your case and help you understand the potential penalties and some ways to defend against the allegations against you. 

Shoplifting Laws in Arizona

The shoplifting laws in Arizona are found under ARS 13-1805. You can be charged with shoplifting when you enter a store during its regular business hours and do any of the following things:

  • Knowingly take the item without paying for it
  • Charge the purchase to another person without their knowledge or permission
  • Pay a lower price by altering, switching, or changing the price tag
  • Taking goods from one container and concealing them in another to take them
  • Knowingly concealing goods to take them

You must have a culpable mental state to be charged with shoplifting. This is an intent to deprive the retail establishment of the goods. If a store employee suspects you of shoplifting, they can detain you in the store and hold you until the police arrive.

You should immediately talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you have been caught shoplifting. Working with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the shoplifting laws in Arizona from the start can help you build a much stronger defense against the charges against you and help you achieve a better outcome. 

Penalties for Shoplifting Offenses in Arizona: Is Shoplifting a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Shoplifting is a type of theft involving taking items of value from a retail establishment to permanently deprive the merchant of the goods you have taken. Shoplifting offenses range in severity based on the value of the item taken. 

Is shoplifting a felony in Arizona?

Depending on what you were caught in shoplifting and its value, it could be charged as a felony. The penalties are more serious if you shoplift a firearm. You can be charged with shoplifting for stealing something worth very little or something very valuable, and the penalties will be based on what you stole and its value under ARS 13-1805. 

Based on the severity of the offense you are charged with, there is a broad range of potential penalties associated with shoplifting under the shoplifting laws in Arizona. In some cases, a shopper might accidentally take an item.

For example, if you forget something in your grocery cart and fail to pay for it, you might be stopped at the exit and told to go back to pay for it. However, the same incident in a different store could result in a shoplifting charge. 

See below for a chart of the penalties you can face if you are caught shoplifting under ARS 13-1805.

  Offense Level Incarceration Fine Probation
Value less than $1,000 Class 1 Misdemeanor Up to 6 months in jail Up to $2,500 Up to 3 years
Value From $1,000 to less than $2,000 or a Firearm Class 6 Felony Prison from 6 months to 1.5 years Up to $150,000 Up to 3 years
Value From $2,000, Part of a gang, or 3 convictions in 90 days Class 5 Felony 9 months to 2 years in prison Up to $150,000 Up to 3 years
Using artifice or a 3rd conviction within 5 years Class 4 Felony Prison from 18 months to three years Up to $150,000 Up to 3 years

Even a Class 1 misdemeanor shoplifting offense under the shoplifting ARS can expose you to the potential of up to six months in jail, a stiff fine, and a sentence to probation. If you are charged with a felony shoplifting offense, you could face a prison sentence and have a felony on your record.

Suppose you have a felony conviction on your record. In that case, it can make you encounter other difficulties in your life, including the loss of your civil rights, trouble finding employment or qualifying for housing, difficulty qualifying for credit, and stigma in your community. 

All types of theft offenses can make it difficult for you to find a job, including a misdemeanor shopping offense. Many employers won’t hire people with theft convictions because of the potential chance they will steal from work.

The collateral consequences you might face following a shoplifting conviction could follow you for a long time after your case is over. This makes it important to hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after you have been charged so that you can fight against your charges. 


Civil Lawsuits and Shoplifting in Arizona

Under Arizona law, you can also be sued by a merchant when you shoplift. The merchant can file a civil lawsuit against you even though you also face criminal charges in criminal court for the same act. This is because civil lawsuits and criminal cases operate under two separate bodies of law.

You can face civil and criminal penalties for a conviction if the merchant sues you. The civil penalties for shoplifting include paying the merchant for the retail value of the goods taken, a minimum $250 penalty, and any actual damages the merchant suffered because of your actions. 

If you are an emancipated minor, you will have to reimburse the merchant for the retail value of the goods you stole, pay a minimum $100 penalty, and pay the merchant’s actual damages due to your actions. 

Minors and Shoplifting

Many young people view shoplifting as a cheap way to get a thrill without facing the consequences. However, minors can face the consequences when they shoplift, as can their parents or legal guardians.

A merchant can’t sue a minor, but the merchant can sue the parents or guardians in civil court to recover damages caused by the child’s conduct.

The merchant can recover up to $10,000 in actual damages under ARS 12-661. The merchant can also recover a penalty from the parents or guardians for a value equal to the value of the goods taken by the minor and an additional penalty of $100. 

A minor who shoplifts can also be adjudicated for the offense in juvenile court. While the juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation, the minor might still have several consequences, including juvenile probation, community service, theft classes, and potential detention based on the severity of the offense.

Detention by Merchants

A merchant has the right to detain people they suspect of shoplifting while they wait for the police to arrive. Many retailers employ loss prevention staff whose jobs involve watching for signs of shoplifting and stopping culprits before they leave the stores.

Loss prevention personnel watch people while walking through the store and also use surveillance video.

They look for people hiding merchandise or concealing items on their bodies or those of another person. For example, a loss prevention officer might watch for a person to stick something in their pocket or in a child’s car seat to conceal it. 

They also see people place items in containers to avoid paying for them, including backpacks, pursues, or other things. Hiding a high-dollar item inside of a container for a low-value item to try to pay only the lower price could get you in trouble.

Changing the price tag on an item can similarly result in you being detained in the store. Follow their instructions if you are detained or told to stop by a loss prevention officer. If you resist, fight with the loss prevention officer, or try to run, you could face additional, more serious charges.

Talk to an Experienced Defense Shoplifting Lawyer

If you have been charged with shoplifting or are the parent of a minor who was, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Shoplifting is not a minor crime and can result in serious consequences.

Arja Shah is a highly experienced defense lawyer who can help you understand your rights and legal options. She will carefully review the evidence to identify any defenses that might be available to you and fight for you in court.

She will work diligently to secure a plea to a lesser offense or potentially win a dismissal of the charges against you and drop the entire case. Contact the Shah Law Firm today at (602) 560-7408

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