Shoplifting Laws in Arizona - What You Need to Know

by Aaron Black • August 01, 2019
Arrested for shopliftingShoplifting may seem like a petty property crime but actually it can be quite serious if convicted and shoplifting significantly damages the financial well-being of Arizona retailers.

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention reports that retailers nationwide lose about $35 million each day from losses committed by an approximately equal proportion of men and women shoplifters. It also reports that one in 11 people shoplifted at some time in their lives and about 25 percent of shoplifters are minors.

Phoenix, AZ police from 2011 to mid-2016 were most often summoned to three Walmart stores for shoplifting calls, the Arizona Republic reported.

Retailers’ Shoplifting Protections

Most retail businesses have theft prevention procedures, agents and many have installed surveillance cameras, ranging from Walmart® to the Dollar Store. A store’s theft prevention agent or an employee need to have reasonable cause to detain and question the shoplifting suspect for a reasonable amount of time in a reasonable place until police arrive. A person of the same gender as the suspect needs to be present. Retailers may also let the shoplifter leave the business and rely on police to make an arrest.

For shoplifters who are minors, elderly or those who have diminished mental capacity, the business should release them to parents or family members rather than calling the police.

In situations involving a minor the business may recover its losses through a civil lawsuit against the minor’s parents or legal guardian under Arizona Revised Statute §12-661 or §12-692. Cases involving minors are adjudicated in Arizona’s Juvenile Department.

For emancipated minors, those who are financially self-sufficient, the applicable law is §12-691.

Arizona’s Shoplifting Law

A shoplifter legally defined is someone who enters a business and knowingly takes merchandise belonging to the establishment intending to deprive the business of the merchandise.

The specific acts defined as shoplifting are presented in Arizona Revised Statute §13-805. Of course taking something from the store is a violation, but so is charging merchandise on a fraudulent credit or debit card or charging merchandise with a valid card but without the account holder’s permission.

Other shoplifting activities are:
  • Using “some trick or artifice” to reduce or alter the price of the merchandise on its price tag, label or other marking
  • Transferring the merchandise from its original container to another one
  • Concealing the merchandise
Arizona shoplifting law presumes that the suspect has the culpable mental state by (1) concealing on his or her person or on another person unpurchased merchandise while in the business or (2) using a device, artifice, instrument or container to enable shoplifting.

Shoplifting Penalties

The punishments for shoplifting are determined by the value and type of merchandise but the court may require the defendant who pleads or is found guilty to perform a term of probation and public service in addition to any fines the court imposes.

Shoplifting cases involving less than $1,000 are prosecuted as a class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious of Arizona’s misdemeanor offenses. But if a firearm is shoplifted a more serious class 6 felony is charged.
  • Shoplifted property valued at $1,000 but less than $2,000 is a class 6 felony, the least serious felony.
  • Stolen merchandise valued at $2,000 during any “continuing criminal episode” that is used to promote or assist street gang or criminal syndicate is a class 5 felony. (A continuing criminal episode is defined as property valued at $1,500 or more taken during at least three separate incidences within 90 consecutive days.)
  • A person who uses an artifice, instrument, container or devise to shoplift and who has been convicted within five years of the current offense of two or more offenses of shoplifting, burglary, robbery, or organized retail theft is a class 4 felony.
Judges are allowed wide discretion in determining the sentence a convicted defendant receives. Arizona sentencing levels for non-dangerous crimes are mitigated, minimum, presumptive, maximum, and aggravated, each more serious than the previous.

Shoplifting Defenses

If you are detained for shoplifting it’s imperative to your case that you don’t admit to anything. You have the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. What you say becomes state evidence. You’re also allowed under Arizona vs. Miranda to have an attorney present during questioning.
  • If authorities fail to recite your Miranda rights that is a defense
  • Arizona’s shoplifting law requires that the defendant “knowingly” committed shoplifting so if the defense can show the shoplifting incident was not intentional that is a defense.
  • The incident may have been a simple misunderstanding, such as placing the property in question on your person and forgetting it was there while you continued shopping.
  • Reasonable cause is a defense if a merchant, employee, agent or police officer wrongfully detains or falsely arrests the accused, such as profiling.
Other defenses may be available and can be determined by the skill and knowledge of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled shoplifting cases.

Remember it’s up to the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and a thorough investigation by the defense is aimed at establishing reasonable doubt by finding flaws in the police report or discovering prosecutorial misconduct.

In some cases it also may be possible to enter into an agreement with the prosecution that reduces the seriousness of the charge and punishments by presenting mitigating evidence in your defense.

Confidential Legal Advice

If you find yourself accused of shoplifting I strongly advise to contact a criminal defense attorney for a case assessment.

I have a record of aggressively defending clients by challenging the validity of the state’s evidence while providing personalized legal services throughout the case.

Contact Phoenix, AZ Criminal Defense Attorney Aaron Black or call (480)729-1683 for a confidential telephonic consultation.

I’ll listen to your side of the event, ask questions, and explain the law most applicable to your situation and the legal process involved. I’m available 24 hours a day seven days a week and I defend clients in all Arizona city, state and federal courts.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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