The Baltimore criminal defense attorneys at Alperstein & Diener explain the shoplifting charges in Maryland.
People who get accused of shoplifting in Maryland are usually charged with the misdemeanor offense of Theft. Maryland statutes provide for several levels of severity of theft, each one based upon the value of the item in dispute. For items with a value of less than $100 the maximum penalty is 90 days and jail and/or a $500 fine. Between $100 and $1000 the penalty climbs to 18 months and/ or a fine of $500. Values over $1000 are considered felonies and subject to significantly higher penalties.
Usually these cases begin when a store manager or detectives stops a customer under the suspicion that they have committed a crime. You should always remember that any statements you make to ANYONE in this process can be used against you in a court of law, but don’t expect to be read your Miranda rights by the store personnel.
Following your encounter with the store personnel there is likely to be an interaction with law enforcement personnel as well. If questioned by police you may be advised of your Miranda rights, but even if you aren’t, remember that the State may try to introduce any statements you make. Explaining your story at this time may seem like a good idea, but if it doesn’t pay off it will likely be brought up in trial, and might sound different when the police are giving their rendition of it. Remaining polite and cooperative at this point can make the difference between being arrested and being issued a citation. Both of these methods of charging have the same ultimate ramification: a court appearance and potentially a trial.
Don’t wait to consult with a lawyer, talk to one immediately and get them involved as soon as you can afford them. Even though they are misdemeanors, theft crimes carry a pretty heavy stigma and can make employers extremely reluctant to hire you. Throughout the run-up to the trial, attorneys can work to evaluate the strength of the government’s case, the options and viabilities of any defenses you might present, and, if necessary, the plea options available to you.
P.S. Another benefit of getting a lawyer is that you will already have someone to talk to when you receive that letter from the store asking for restitution.