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Shoplifting case shows why all defendants need a good attorney

If you have been arrested and/or charged with a crime, you have a lot to lose. Many defendants make the mistake of thinking they don’t need an experienced criminal defense attorney because the charges against them are relatively small.

But here in Wisconsin and other parts of the country, prosecutors don’t always treat minor offenses with a “slap on the wrist.” Some prosecutors have a reputation for getting creative with the charges they file against defendants. In at least one recent incident, prosecutors were able to turn a shoplifting case into a felony burglary charge.

Police in St. Paul, Minnesota, were frustrated about the actions of a 50-year-old man whom they described as a professional shoplifter because he has an “almost daily routine of boosting merchandise from retail stores.” Recently, he was allegedly caught on camera stealing four large bottles of laundry detergent from a grocery store.

The man apparently seemed unlikely to stop shoplifting despite numerous convictions on his record. State law requires the value of stolen property to be more than $1,000 before a person can be charged with felony theft. Police teamed with prosecutors to find a way to levy more serious criminal charges against the man.

In previous incidents where he was allegedly caught shoplifting, stores had given the defendant a “trespass” notice, meaning he could not come back for a year. Because he allegedly came back and shoplifted again within that time frame, prosecutors were able to charge him with two counts third-degree burglary. If convicted, he could face up to $10,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

You may not be a “chronic offender.” You may be facing criminal charges for the first time and for a relatively minor offense. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to take chances when your freedom is at stake. Please consider seeking the help of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Source:, “St. Paul's 'outside-the-box' charges nail organized retail thieves,” Mara H. Gottfried, March 29, 2014

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