Have you ever pranked a store by switching price labels around? If so, then you likely didn’t know you could’ve gotten charged with shoplifting. Shoplifting charges in Virginia are nothing to scoff at. This type of crime carries heavy penalties.
When you’re facing theft charges in Fairfax county, the whole ordeal is intimidating. Depending on the situation, you may get taken straight to jail. What comes next? What should you expect?
Read on to learn what happens after you’re arrested for shoplifting in Virginia.
Getting Booked or Receiving Your Summons
The first thing that will happen if you’re accused of shoplifting is an investigation. Authorities will arrive and question witnesses or the business’s employees. They may review footage or analyze other evidence right away. They’ll also try to determine the value of the alleged property that got shoplifted.
The value of this property will dictate the seriousness of the crime you’re charged with. If the value is lower than $500, then it’s considered petit larceny. Police will charge you, but they won’t take you to jail. You’ll get a Virginia Uniform Summons with a court date.
Virginia statutes define grand larceny as taking goods with a value equal to or over $500. Grand larceny is a felony in Virginia, so it’s unlikely you’ll only get a summons.
You’ll likely get handcuffed, put in the back of a cruiser, and transported to jail.
Initial Court Hearing
Whether you’re charged with larceny or grand larceny, you’ll get an arraignment date. This arraignment is where you’ll learn more about your charges. If you got taken to jail, then a bail amount will get set.
You’ll also learn about your right to counsel. You’ll get asked to enter into an initial plea (guilty or not guilty). It’s advised you plead not guilty during your arraignment. Otherwise, you may not get an opportunity to defend yourself later. You can always change your mind and plead guilty at a later date if you change your mind.
Making Bail or Awaiting Trial
Were you in jail before your arraignment? If so, then you’ll head back to your cell after the hearing. From there, it’ll be up to you or your family to pay bail for your release.
If you can’t afford bail, then you’ll be stuck in jail until your official court date.
Discussing Your Case with an Attorney
Whether you’re in jail or released, you need to be smart about how you use your time before court. If you have the ability, start looking for the best lawyer as soon as you can.
You need to discuss the specifics of the incident and your arrest with an attorney. Together, you’ll work on developing a good defense strategy. Here are a few solid strategies you can use against shoplifting charges in Fairfax:
- Mistake of fact (you didn’t commit the crime)
- Lack of intent
What should you do if the state has a lot of evidence against you? Sometimes, the best legal strategy is to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Speak with an attorney if you’re considering going down that road.
Appearing in Court
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking shoplifting is a victimless crime, but it’s not. Experts estimate that shoplifting costs taxpayers about $75,000 a minute!
With that in mind, don’t go into your hearing attempting to defend yourself by saying your crime was petty. It’s also not a valid defense to say you committed the crime out of necessity. While that may be true, it won’t get you off the hook.
Instead, it’s best to have a strong defense strategy prepared with your lawyer. Try to dress in formal attire, and present yourself as best as you can. Listen to your attorney’s advice, and be respectful as your hearing proceeds.
Both parties will have an opportunity to present their arguments.
Guilty or Not Guilty: What Happens Next?
After the debate is over, the judge will read out the verdict — guilty or not guilty.
If you’re found not guilty, then you’re in the clear! You won’t have to face any legal repercussions, and you won’t have a conviction on your record.
In contrast, getting a guilty verdict is not good news. Depending on the severity of your offense, you could be subject to:
- Incarceration: 1-20 years
- Fines: $2,500
- Civil penalties (lawsuits)
If you’re sentenced to jail time, then you’ll get taken to jail right after the hearing.
Life After a Shoplifting Conviction
After a shoplifting conviction, life changes a lot. You likely lost your freedom for the time being. As you can imagine, your personal and professional relationships will suffer. Jail is the last place you want to be.
Even after you serve your sentence, you might get put on parole or probation. You must obey the terms of these sentences or risk going back to jail again.
Were you convicted of a felony? If so, then you’ll face even more limitations even after completing probation. Due to your conviction, you won’t be eligible to vote anymore. You’re also not permitted to carry a firearm.
Are You Facing Theft Charges in Fairfax County?
After you get arrested for shoplifting in Virginia, you have limited options. You’ll get transported to a cell where you’ll either pay your way out or await trial. A court hearing will get scheduled, and you’ll need to figure out how to defend yourself.
In almost all circumstances, it’s best to hire an attorney to represent you. If you can’t afford one, then you should still request a public defender.
If you do have the option of hiring your own lawyer, then you’ll want to hire the best. Attorney Mark Nicewicz understands your situation, and he’s prepared to help. Reach out to his office now with a brief description of what happened to learn more about how he can help.