Indiana Shoplifting Laws and Potential Penalties
To most, shoplifting may seem like a rather minor criminal offense. However, Indiana shoplifting laws direct law enforcement to take this offense very seriously. Depending on the value of the property that was shoplifted and any prior theft-related offenses, you could face felony charges, significant fines, and even jail time.
If you have been charged with theft or shoplifting, you’ll want to speak with an Indianapolis theft lawyer as soon as possible. Although the charges might not seem too serious right now, you don’t want to have to carry the weight of a criminal record. It could affect a variety of things down the road; from your ability to find a good job, apply for housing, or even obtain a handgun license.
The criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are former deputy prosecutors who now work to defend and protect the rights of Hoosiers facing criminal charges. They understand Indiana shoplifting laws inside and out and are ready to work towards the best possible outcome in your case. Whether you’d like to fight the charges, reduce the charges, or make the case for leniency, our team is ready to represent you. Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at (317) 751-7186 or complete our online contact form to begin crafting your defense.
Indiana Shoplifting Laws: Defining Theft and Conversion
Generally, Indiana shoplifting laws can be found in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2. This statute broadly defines the criminal offense of theft as, “knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person, with the intent to deprive the other person of any part of its value or use.”
Indiana Code 35-43-4-1 states that “exert control over property,” means to “obtain, take, carry, drive, lead away, conceal, abandon, sell, convey, encumber, or possess property; or to secure, transfer, or extend a right to property.” Furthermore, for the purposes of shoplifting in Indiana, it stipulates a person’s control over another person’s property is unauthorized if it is “exerted without the other person’s (or business’) consent” or “in a manner or to an extent other than that to which the other person (or business) has consented.”
Theft or Conversion?
In addition to theft, there is another related criminal offense called conversion. Indiana Code 35-43-4-3 defines conversion in Indiana as, “knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person.”
While these two offenses seem to have the exact same definition, they apply to different types of situations. Conversion offenses arise from situations where the offender intends to return the stolen property. For example, one could be charged with conversion if they paid to stay at a rental property for three weeks but continue to dwell on the property after the three weeks have expired. Alternatively, to be considered a theft crime, the offense must be committed with “the intent to deprive the other person of any part of the property’s value or use.” In other words, the offender has no intent to return the property or compensate the property owner.
Shoplifting in Indiana will almost always be classified as a “theft” offense. The reason being is that to be considered a conversion offense, one must not intend to deprive the property owner of any part of the stolen property’s value. By nature, when stealing something from the store, one almost always intends to deprive the property owner of the property’s value.
Detention by Owners
It’s important to know that if you are suspected of shoplifting in Indiana, the owner (or an agent of the store, like an employee) can detain you if they have probable cause to believe that you have stolen from the store or are in the act of stealing from the store. Indiana shoplifting laws regarding detention by owners are contained in Indiana Code 35-33-6, which states: “An owner or agent of a store who has probable cause to believe that a theft has occurred or is occurring on or about the store and who has probable cause to believe that a specific person has committed or is committing the theft may detain the person and request the person to identify himself or herself; verify the identification; determine whether the person has in the person’s possession unpurchased merchandise taken from the store; inform the appropriate law enforcement officers; and inform the person’s parents or others interested in the person’s welfare that the person has been detained.”
However, if the person is a minor who hasn’t consulted a parent, legal guardian or custodian, the store owner, or an agent of the store, cannot ask the person to make a statement acknowledging that they’ve committed theft or conversion or a statement that waives their legal rights. Furthermore, the law states that the detention of the alleged shoplifter must be reasonable and only last for a reasonable amount of time. It cannot extend beyond the arrival of a police officer or two hours, whichever occurs first.
Shoplifting Laws in Indiana: Potential Penalties
Indiana shoplifting laws classify most convictions as a Class A misdemeanor. However, that classification can be elevated to a Level 6 Felony if the property is valued at $750 or more, but less than $50,000; or the person has a prior, unrelated conviction for theft, criminal conversion, robbery, or burglary. Per the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, a Level 6 Felony is much more serious and can carry a punishment of up to 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In rare instances, shoplifting in Indiana can result in being convicted of a Level 5 felony. This happens when the property that was stolen was a firearm or has a fair market value of $50,000 or more. Level 5 Felonies in Indiana carry harsh penalties and could result in a sentence of up to 6 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Indiana Law on Assessing Value
The Indiana shoplifting laws in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2(b) state that “the value of property,” should be understood as either the fair market value of the property at the time and place it was stolen. Often, in instances related to shoplifting, a price tag or price marking will suffice as evidence of the fair market value. However, in cases where the fair market value cannot be determined, the value will be set as the cost to replace the property within a reasonable amount of time following the theft.
Collateral Consequences and Penalties
Beyond the penalties associated with the convictions listed in Indiana Code 35-43-4-2, one may face additional collateral consequences related to their conviction of shoplifting in Indiana. Depending on the judge, the law, and the context of the situation, these consequences could be rather significant, such as probation or a negative impact on a professional license. In other cases, the collateral consequences could be mild, like having to pay restitution or do some community service.
Regardless of the conviction level, the creation of a criminal record may affect future employment opportunities, school applications, or apartment rentals. If you’ve already been convicted of theft or shoplifting in Indiana, and no longer wish to carry the weight of a criminal record, Indiana expungement may be an option for you.
Indiana expungement law allows you to seal your criminal records and prevent this conviction from having a negative effect on any future convictions, should the occasion arise. Not sure if you qualify for expungement? The Indiana expungement and record sealing attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to speak with you and review your record. Call us today at (317) 751-7186 or complete our online contact form.
Indiana Shoplifting Laws on Restitution
Civil restitution is one of the many rights of a victim, under Indiana Code 35-40-5-7. This means that store owners can seek financial returns for their losses from someone convicted of shoplifting in Indiana. In the case of a minor, this means seeking a financial return from the minor’s parents or guardians. Even if the fair market value of the stolen property wasn’t monumental, it’s important to understand that Indiana judges may award up to three times the amount of actual losses, plus reimbursement costs and fees incurred.
For those without any prior offenses, the penalties associated with a shoplifting conviction may seem particularly harsh, especially to minors. Fortunately, Indiana diversion programs allow for the dismissal of the charges, if the offender participates to the satisfaction of the program and court. However, in Indiana, the availability of diversion programs and eligibility requirements are determined county-by-county. Therefore, one should consult with an experienced Indiana theft attorney to better understand if this type of program would be an option, given the context of their situation.
Have You Been Charged with Shoplifting in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today
Being arrested for shoplifting in Indiana, possession of stolen property in Indiana, or any other theft-related crime, is stressful. However, it’s much easier to manage criminal proceedings with the help of an Indiana theft attorney. The criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP helps clients fully understand Indiana shoplifting laws, the potential penalties they may face, and how to best respond to the charges brought against them. Our team is staffed by former deputy prosecutors who have successfully convicted dozens of individuals for theft-related crimes. Therefore, they have an intimate knowledge of the prosecution’s strategies and how they will approach the case. As a result, we provide our clients with unmatched expertise in this area of law. To begin working on the best plan to move forward with your life, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at (317) 751-7186 or complete our online contact form