Can I really be charged with shop lifting

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Can I really be charged with shop lifting

I was walking around with some one
who was shop lifting when it came time
to steal the merchandise I attempted to
walk away while they were going out
tell them I wanted no part in it. I was
about 10 meters ahead of the person
with no merchandise in my hand or in
my procession can I still be charged.

Asked on February 9, 2017 under Criminal Law, Arkansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can be charged if there is reason to think or evidence that you were helping or participating in some way, such as being their lookout, helping to distract sales people, or helping them get away (e.g. drove them home with their stolen goods). You don't need to steal yourself; it's enought that you assisted in the theft somehow. While evidence  "beyond a reasonable doubt"--very strong evidence--is needed to convict, much less evidence is needed to arrest, so even if it would be difficult for the authorities to prove in court that you were an accomplice, they may arrest you in the first place while they continue their investigation to see if you were involved.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can be charged on the theory of "aiding and abetting". In other words, that you were an accomplice who was helping the person who actually shoplifted commit the crime. Basically, while you can't be arrested just for being with someone who has broken the law, if there are facts and circumstances that permits one to draw the conclusion that you were more than "just walking next to someone", then you can be convicted. Further, the penalties for this are the same as if you actually did the shoplifting. At this point, you should consult directly with a defense attorney. Legal representation is best when criminal charges are involved.


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