Being arrested for shoplifting is embarrassing and humiliating. This is particularly true if people didn't intend to steal anything from the store where they were arrested. Fortunately, there are ways to fight shoplifting charges.
In Iowa, shoplifting is charged under the state's general theft statute. The degree of a theft charge in Iowa depends on the value of the items allegedly stolen. In most shoplifting cases, the value of the property at issue will result in a charge of fifth or fourth degree theft. Fifth degree theft is defined as the theft of property worth $200 or less. It is a simple misdemeanor; a conviction can result in a fine between $65 and $625 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.
The theft of property worth over $200 but not over $500 is fourth degree theft, a serious misdemeanor. The potential fines range from $315 to $1,000 and the court may also impose a jail sentence of up to one year. If the property in question is valued at over $500, more serious charges, including felony charges, can apply.
In any theft case the prosecution must prove criminal intent. If a person leaves a store and forgets to pay for an item, there is no intent and the court may drop the charges.
Prosecutors in shoplifting cases often rely on store employees to provide eyewitness testimony. These employees are not trained law enforcement officers. They may not have had an unobstructed view of what happened, and they may have jumped to mistaken conclusions about a customer's behavior. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can highlight the weaknesses in their testimony on cross-examination.
Source: Iowa Code § 714.2, accessed Nov. 5, 2016