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Shoplifting can have harsh consequences in Louisiana

If you think retail theft has few consequences, consider losing the job of your dreams because an employer isn't sure whether to trust you. No one wants a criminal record to interfere with future goals. In some states, penalties for shoplifting can be similar to fines paid for traffic violations, but depending upon circumstances, shoplifting has the potential to strip you of freedom and mark you for life.

Each state, including Louisiana, decides how to categorize and punish shoplifting; in all cases, shoplifting is theft. What some Baton Rouge residents might not know is a charge of shoplifting is possible even when merchandise hasn't been removed from a store. The law is broken once merchandise is concealed, which also can prove the intent to steal necessary for a conviction.

Shoplifting can be described as taking or concealing for-sale merchandise without paying or permission in order to deprive the owner of the item. "Without purchase" also may refer to trying to get a better deal by switching tags, prices and packaging or damaging merchandise.

Shoplifting falls under a "theft of goods" law in Louisiana. Consequences snowball as the value of the shoplifted item increases. Fines and imprisonment are possible for items valued at less than $500. Theft of merchandise worth $1,500 or more can generate a $3,000 fine and a prison term up to 10 years.

Store employees must have probable cause – something greater than mere suspicion -- to detain a person for shoplifting. Store personnel sometimes overstep authority by mistreating or holding a suspected shoplifter for an unreasonable period. States offer stores some leeway with detention but do not permit false arrest or imprisonment.

The immediate shoplifting consequences may be light, but long-term penalties can inflict considerable damage. A criminal defense attorney may be able to have shoplifting charges dropped or reduced. A lawyer also can investigate the treatment you received during store detention.

Source: FindLaw, "Shoplifting" Sep. 03, 2014

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