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One thirsty thief (and how to fight shoplifting charges)

The temperature may have been in the upper eighties on Monday, but that doesn't explain the actions of one alleged shoplifter in Rock Hill. According to police, a man with a mighty thirst entered a Quick Trip store around noon and exited with nearly 200 cans of beer without bothering to pay for them.

In all, the store manager estimates the alleged thief got away with six 24-packs of Bud Light and two 24-packs of Coronita. The sudsy bandit made his escape with the $125 in beer in a gold Chrysler Sebring coupe.

If caught, the will certainly face shoplifting charges. And although sometimes shoplifting charges can be an open-and-shut case, other times there may be a valid defense to such an accusation.

Let's take a look at a few ways a person might be able to challenge charges of shoplifting.

Challenge the elements of the offense

In North Carolina, a person may be found guilty of shoplifting (or, as it's referred to in the statute, concealment of merchandise in mercantile establishments) if the accused, without authority, willfully concealed goods or merchandise of a store, without paying for the goods or merchandise, while still upon the premises of the store.

The crime requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the taking was willful - they must establish the accused had the intent to conceal the item without paying for it.

A legitimate defense might be to argue the concealment was accidental or unintentional. Or that the accused merely forgot to pay - that it was an oversight rather than a willful act. Intent could also be disproven by establishing the accused intended to immediately return the item or pay for it upon realizing what they had inadvertently done.

Challenge the evidence and witnesses

If there is documentary evidence such as video or surveillance footage, a seasoned attorney may be able to get the footage suppressed or thrown out of evidence for lack of proper foundation. Alternatively, eye witness accounts may be discredited and suppressed as unreliable.

Negotiate a plea bargain

Although this is not something a person should necessarily attempt on their own, an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to have the charges dismissed outright or reduced in severity. Deals can also be struck to keep the accused out of jail and otherwise lessen the severity of the punishment imposed.

Although challenging a shoplifting charge may seem like an uphill battle, a savvy criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed and help you keep your criminal record clean.

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