Elements of a Shoplifting Charge

There are three elements to a shoplifting charge in DC that must be proven at trial in order to get a conviction. The first element is that the person must have concealed or taken possession of property. This element can alternatively be defined as removing or altering the price of the property or transferring the property from its display container to another container.

Second, the property itself must have been property belonging to another person and that property must have been offered for sale.

Finally, the person must have performed one of those actions with the specific intent to take the property without paying for it or with the intent to defraud the owner of the property.

Proving Shoplifting

The prosecutor can use any circumstances that would suggest that the property did not belong to the defendant. For example, the behavior of the defendant that shows that he or she was concealing the property. An individual hiding the property would help to support the prosecutor’s position that the property did not belong to the defendant.

Additionally, any evidence that shows that the property was offered for sale such as having price tags or being displayed on shelves would support a prosecutor’s argument that the property did not belong to the defendant.

Owner’s Right to Detain

A business owner has the right to detain and cause the arrest of a person who he or she has probable cause to believe shoplifted in the owner’s presence.

The owner should detain the individual under reasonable conditions as well as notify and transfer the individual to law enforcement within a reasonable time. If the owner decides not to contact law enforcement, then the individual should be released within a reasonable time.

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

A deferred prosecution agreement, commonly referred to as a DPA, is a type of diversion that is sometimes offered by the prosecutors. It is an agreement where the defendant agrees to complete certain terms and, if the defendant successfully completes those terms, then the government will agree to dismiss the case.

All deferred prosecution agreements include terms that state that the defendant agrees to:

  • Not be arrested for another offense on the basis of probable cause
  • Not violate any court orders
  • Not violate any conditions set by the pretrial services agency

Additionally, alternative conditions such as completion of community service, restitution payments, or a promise to stay away from a person or a place may be included depending on the charge.

If you are facing these charges it is vital to have an attorney on your side, their preparation and defense may set you free, or make available a deferred position agreement depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.