Can I be charged with both theft and shoplifting for the same offense?

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Can I be charged with both theft and shoplifting for the same offense?

I am being charged with violations of theft and shoplifting. Aren’t they the same thing? Of course, I understand the terminology is different in that shoplifting is stealing store merchandise, and theft is just a general word for taking property from another. But, wouldn’t I just be charged with one or the other? Not both.

Asked on September 28, 2011 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It's actually very common to be charged with several different offenses for the same criminal element. There are two reasons:

1) The different offenses may differ slightly in the elements necessary to prove them, they are charged in the alternate; that way, whatever exactly the evidence shows, there will be a charge or offense covering it.

2)  They can charge the "highest" (most serious) version of a given crime, as well as all the lesser versions, called "lesser includeds." If there's not enough evidence for the juryt to convict of the most serious version, maybe they will convict of the less-serious versions. You can't be convicted of both the more serious crime and it's lesser includeds, but by charging the lesser includeds, the prosecutor increases his or her chance of getting some conviction.


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