Scenario A: I go into a liquor store to buy cigarettes but I notice the clerk is in the back so I just take them and leave.
Scenario B: I go into the liquor store to steal cigarettes, find a pack, then walk out without a problem.
Scenario C: I go into the liquor store for cigarettes, whether to buy or steal, but decide to steal them once I am in the store. Security approaches and I push him down and run.
The bottom line is that all I got was a pack of cigarettes, right? Wrong.
In scenario A, I didn't form the intent to steal until I was in the store. This is critical in determining whether I committed a petty theft (misdemeanor) or a burglary (felony). In scenario B, I formed the intent prior to entering the store and is burglary. In scenario C, I actually committed a robbery (felony) because I had to use force or fear to get the cigarettes.
Petty theft, burglary, and robbery have some similar elements to their crimes, but the differences may mean the difference between probation and prison.
The above scenarios do not just apply to cigarettes; they apply to anything in the store. So whether you try to get a pack of gum or a shopping cart full of booze, the charges can differ on how the crime was committed.
At The Law Offices of Jarrod Wilfert, we can dissect the arrest and determine if it was legal and whether the correct charge was applied. Intent is very difficult to prove in court, but our firm is composed of former law enforcement officers who are extremely familiar with the smallest, yet critical details, of a theft arrest. Please call for a FREE consultation at (805) 994-0560.