Attorney David L. Zerbe
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In Indiana Law

Why you shouldn't take shoplifting charges lightly

Over the holidays, your child, who was home from college, used some very poor judgment and took a piece of jewelry or a pair of shoes from a store. Maybe you were caught leaving a store with something in your bag that you had intended to pay for but forgot about.

Most people consider these crimes or alleged crimes "shoplifting." However, Indiana law considers them theft, and they fall under the state's theft statutes.

The potential penalties vary depending, in part, on the value of the merchandise. For example, if someone is convicted of taking merchandise valued at under $750, they may face a misdemeanor. Theft of property valued at more than $750 is considered a felony and carries a greater likelihood of spending time in jail or prison.

Indiana also has a lesser offense known as "conversion," which is a misdemeanor. It involves taking unauthorized control over someone else's property, but not necessarily taking the property from them. For example, if a security person sees you place an item in your bag or pocket, you could be accused of conversion even though you never took the item out of the store. If you're charged with theft, it may be possible to get the charge reduced to conversion.

Note that any action that someone takes to keep them from paying the designated price for an item is considered a form of shoplifting. This can include switching the tag on an item with one for a lower-priced item or placing additional items in a box to get more of them than you're paying for.

It can sometimes be difficult for prosecutors to prove that someone intentionally stole an item when they assert that they intended to pay for it or didn't realize they'd left the store with it. It's always wise to seek legal guidance if you or a loved one is accused of shoplifting. A theft conviction on a person's record can have serious, long-term ramifications.

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Attorney David L. Zerbe

The Zerbe Firm
15 West Center Street
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

Phone: 812-270-9999
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