Under What conditions can you be charged with theft?

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Under What conditions can you be charged with theft?

CAN YOU BE CHARGED FOR 5TH DEGREE THEFT IF THEY DID NOT FIND ANY THING ON YOUR PERSON AND YOU NEVER PASSED THE CHECK OUT OR LEFT THE BUSINESS? MY SON AND I WERE IN SHOP-KO AND THEY TRIED TO GET HIM FOR STEALING EARRINGS. THEY FOUND ME AND ASKED TO GO TO THE SECURITY ROOM WITH THEM. ON THE WAY BACK I LAID DOWN WHAT I HAD IN MY HAND (NOT KNOWING IF I SHOULD TAKE THE STUFF BACK THERE) AND WHEN I DID A CHAIN THAT WAS ON THE WALLET I WAS HOLDING HIT THE METAL SHELF. THE POLICE OFFICER THEN RAN OVER TO ME AND MADE ME PICK THE ITEMS UP. THERE WERE OTHER ITEMS ON THE SHELF THAT HE MADE ME PICK UP AS WELL. HE TOLD ME THAT I WAS TRYING TO STEAL THEM AND I WAS CHARGED WITH IT. I DO HAVE THEFT ON MY RECORD BUT I DID NOT DO THIS. WHAT DO I DO?

Asked on January 22, 2011 under Criminal Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) Can you be charged with theft if nothing was found on your person and you "never passed the check or left the business"? Yes. The fact that someone was not able to successful complete the theft does not mean it was not theft;  for example, taking an item from a display case without permission would be theft even if the person was stopped before leaving  the store.

2) However, if you were following an officer's instructions too pick something up, you can't then be charged with trying to steall that object--and may even have a cause of action (lawsuit) against the police for *they're* unlawful act.

3) What should you do? Get a criminal defense attorney--IMMEDIATELY. If you can't afford one, one must be appointed for you. Do not say anything to anyone, especially the police or prosecutors, until you speak with your lawyer--remember, you have a right to remain silent (to avoid self-incrimination).


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