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Possession of Anti-Shoplifting Devices Lawyers


Possession of Anti-Shoplifting Devices: What You Need to Know

Shoplifting and retail theft are major issues facing stores of all sizes. To combat these crimes, many retailers use anti-shoplifting devices like security tags, towers, and cameras. But did you know that in some states, possessing devices meant to remove or defeat these security measures is a crime in itself?

As a shoplifting defense attorney, I’ve seen many well-intentioned people get caught up in charges for possession of anti-shoplifting devices. This article will cover the basics of these laws, potential penalties, and defenses that a knowledgeable lawyer may use.

What Constitutes an Anti-Shoplifting Device?

Anti-shoplifting devices refer to tools that defeat or remove security devices attached to merchandise in stores. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Magnet removers for security tags
  • Wire cutters for security cables
  • Aluminum-lined bags to block security towers
  • Devices that jam sensors and cameras

Simply having one of these items is enough to face charges in some states. Prosecutors don’t need to prove intent to shoplift.

Overview of Laws on Possession

Laws regarding possession of anti-shoplifting devices vary quite a bit nationwide. Some states have no specific statutes, while others treat it as a felony on par with shoplifting itself.

For example, Florida statute 812.015 makes possession a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison. Meanwhile, Ohio section 2913.34 sets penalties at only a minor misdemeanor with a small fine.

Where does your state fall on this spectrum? A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can research local laws and precedent to build the best defense.

When Can You Be Charged?

Prosecutors typically must prove a few key elements to convict for possession of an anti-shoplifting device:

  • Possession: The defendant had an anti-shoplifting device on their person or under their control. Constructive possession applies if it was in a bag, pocket, or vehicle belonging to the defendant.
  • Knowledge: The defendant knowingly possessed the device, being aware of its nature.
  • Intent: Some states require prosecutors to demonstrate intent to use the device to shoplift. Others have no intent requirement.

Mere possession is enough to trigger charges in strict liability states. For example, if TSA finds wire cutters in your carry-on luggage, you could potentially face prosecution after landing.

What Are the Penalties If Convicted?

The penalties for possessing anti-shoplifting devices span a wide gamut depending on your state and criminal history. At minimum, you may face fines of a few hundred dollars. At worst, some states punish this as a felony with years in state prison.

Collateral consequences can be severe as well. A felony conviction can bar you from jobs, professional licensing, voting rights, gun ownership, public housing, and government assistance programs. Immigration status may also be impacted.

With so much at stake, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. An attorney knows how to negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or pretrial diversion programs. They also can plan defense strategies should your case go to trial.

Viable Defenses Against These Charges

Fighting accusations of possessing anti-shoplifting devices starts with understanding the prosecutor’s burden of proof. Their case likely hinges on convincing a jury that you knowingly possessed the device.

Here are some of the most effective legal defenses I use in these cases:

You Were Unaware the Item Could Be Used to Shoplift

If you didn’t realize wire cutters could remove security tags, you may not have possessed them “knowingly.” We can argue you carried them for legitimate reasons like arts & crafts projects.

Someone Else Placed the Device in Your Belongings

Perhaps the device was left in your purse or glovebox by accident. Or someone planted it there without your knowledge. Either way, arguing lack of knowing possession can undermine the prosecution.

You Had No Intent to Shoplift

In states requiring intent, we can argue you carried the device for reasons wholly unrelated to retail theft. If you’re an electrician traveling with wire cutters for work, for example.

The Device Doesn’t Meet the Legal Definition

Some everyday items like aluminum foil could be considered anti-shoplifting devices under loose interpretations. A good lawyer can argue such mundane objects don’t meet the letter of the law.

Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case

As you can see, defending against possession of anti-shoplifting device charges involves in-depth knowledge of local statutes and case law. An uninformed lawyer leaves you vulnerable to harsh penalties.

I recommend working with an attorney experienced specifically in retail crime defense in your state. They will know the biases of local prosecutors and judges. They also can develop defense strategies catered to how your jurisdiction interprets the law.

When vetting lawyers, ask pointed questions like:

  • How many shoplifting and retail crime cases have you defended in this state?
  • What is your success record getting these types of charges reduced or dismissed?
  • What are some examples of defense strategies you’ve used successfully in similar cases?

Beware any lawyer who can’t provide specific answers. Finding one with a proven track record should be your top priority.

Act Fast to Protect Your Future

Never take charges of possessing anti-shoplifting devices lightly, even if you were arrested out-of-state. The penalties can follow you back home and do long-term damage to your livelihood and legal rights.

Act quickly after any arrest to consult with a retail crime defense lawyer before speaking to police or prosecutors. An experienced attorney can negotiate with the prosecution, build defense strategies, and resolve the case with as little impact on your record as possible.

Don’t leave your fate to chance. Contact my office today for a free case review.

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