Theft at Walmart Self Checkout in Covington, Louisiana
Are you wondering about theft at Walmart self checkout? Or perhaps you are a Covington, La resident concerned about a theft charge for stealing from Walmart? Whatever you may be facing, we are here to better help you understand the seriousness of these charges and what to expect.
Theft Charges Are No Laughing Matter
Theft charges can affect your future opportunities by making job applications and loan applications more difficult.
To get a better handle on what to do after a theft charge, it’s important to understand how theft is defined, what the penalties are, what needs to be proven, what your best defenses are, and how a criminal defense lawyer can help.
Let’s take a look at each in detail.
Step 1: Understand What Theft Is
Theft involves the permanent removal of valuable items from other people without their consent or through deceptive means. The person accused of theft must show clear intent to steal.
In Walmart, this clear intent can mean removing an item from its original packaging, taking the price tag off, or hiding items in a cart.
Step 2: Know the Penalties for a Theft Charge
Walmart pursues the civil penalties, and the Louisiana government pursues the criminal penalties.
Civil Penalties: A Theft Charge for Stealing From Walmart
The Covington, La Walmarts are responsible for pursuing civil penalties. Usually, these result in repaying the original price of the stolen goods on top of a $50 to $500 fine.
If the retail value of the items is $25 or less, Walmart typically has the person return the items to the store. However, if the retail value of the items is above $25, then they may press charges.
Criminal Penalties: A Theft Charge in Covington, La
The Louisiana government pursues criminal penalties such as fines, jail time, or both.
According to Louisiana, RS 14:67, the penalties get more severe as the value of the items increases.
- For items valued under $1,000, it’s a misdemeanor charge with up to a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.
- For items valued between $1,000 and $5,000, it’s a felony charge with up to a $3,000 fine, five years in jail, or both.
- For items valued between $5,000 and $25,000, it’s a felony charge with up to a $10,000 fine, 10 years in jail, or both.
- For items valued over $25,000, it’s a felony charge with up to a $50,000 fine, 20 years in jail, or both.
The misdemeanor charge for items valued under $1,000 can turn into a felony charge if you have two theft convictions in the past. If that’s the case, then the penalty could be a $2,000 fine, two years in jail, or both.
Step 3: Know What Must Be Proven
For a theft charge to stick, Walmart needs to prove that they had probable cause to detain you and that they only detained you for a reasonable amount of time.
In court, the prosecution needs to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to steal and then did something to further that intent. If reasonable doubt is created and the intent is thrown into question, then charges get reduced or dropped.
Step 4: Know Your Defenses
Your best general defense when dealing with security or police officers is to stay silent, sign nothing, and ask for a lawyer.
Alongside that general defense, there are quite a few specific defenses against a theft charge. Four common ones are:
Lack of Intent
An essential part of a theft charge is the intent to steal. If that intent isn’t there, then a “theft” didn’t legally occur. This defense can be used in both first-time or recurring cases of theft.
If the defendant proves that they had no intention of stealing and willingly gave the items back, then charges can be dropped.
An intoxication defense works by showing a lack of intent to steal. If it’s shown that you were intoxicated during the theft and this directly caused your actions, then the charges can be reduced.
If an intoxication defense also shows a lack of intent, then the charges can be dropped entirely.
Flawed valuation means that the value of the stolen items is inaccurate. Since Louisiana laws determine punishment based on the value of items, a flawed valuation defense can reduce the punishment or drop the charges entirely.
Stealing Under Duress
Stealing under duress means that property was stolen due to coercion, intimidation, or threats from another person. For example, if someone threatens violence unless you steal an item, that can be argued as stealing under duress.
If successful, this defense may lead to charges being dropped.
Step 5: Know the Value of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
A great criminal defense lawyer knows what needs to be proven and what your best defenses are. Armed with this knowledge, they can help you regardless of whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
If You Plead Guilty
If you plead guilty to avoid a trial, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution to reduce or dismiss the theft charges.
Reducing a theft charge results in a lighter punishment – typically, a smaller fine, a shorter jail sentence, or both. It can also mean pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
Dismissing a theft charge can happen by negotiating a deal with the prosecutor.
If You Plead Not Guilty
If you plead not guilty and go to trial, then a criminal defense lawyer can put together a strong defense in your favor. Alongside the four defenses above, they can bring in facts about your age, the stolen goods, your reasoning, and more – in particular, arguing against your intent to steal by showing it doesn’t hold up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your Best Defense Against a Theft Charge
If you’re facing a theft charge for stealing from Walmart, your best bet is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They can help reduce or drop charges alongside helping you move through the judicial system.
Carl Barkemeyer has over 17 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in theft charges. Carl is based in Louisiana and is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week. Call him today to see how he can help.