Interviewer: Where do people shoplift from? What are the places?
Court Koehler: A lot of them are stores that are like Target kind of stores, big stores that have a lot of different items. They might have some clothing stuff, they might have electronics and toys and food and things like that. I am not sure if that’s because they tend to have lower security than more expensive malls. It might have something to do with it, but they might be an easier target or they might tend to employ more security or watch things differently but that’s where you tend to see stores like Target or Wal-Mart where there are a lot of different items and large diversity of things that you can take.
Sometimes, the Crime of Shoplifting May be Committed Out of Necessity
Interviewer: Is it ever a crime of necessity? Have you seen that before?
Court Koehler: Yes. There is a necessity defense, and it applies to a lot of different crimes in Utah. It’s technically possible that you could have a necessity defense but it would be really, really difficult to prove that stealing something was a necessity. What you think about is kind of the classic story where somebody steals a loaf of bread to feed their family. If that were to happen and if that were to be the case, then what you would end up with as a consequence is you would probably be more likely to be able to work out something with a prosecutor to where it would be a plea in abeyance or a diversion or something like that. It would not be charged wrongly or taken to trial or anything, if it was really a sad story or it’s a story where something was absolutely necessary for some strange reason.
The Necessity Defense is Rarely Applicable to a Theft Case in the State of Utah
There is a necessity defense in Utah and it is technically possible that you could have a defense for theft. That being said, it’s hard to imagine how that would really work in practicality. A better example of a necessity defense would be, let’s say you and your friends are sitting around, drinking and all of a sudden, your friend has a heart attack. You don’t have any way to contact the police or the 911 or something like that, so you take your friend and drive him to the hospital and you’re intoxicated. That would be a pretty good necessity defense there. You’re not going to let your friend die just because you’re intoxicated, you have to take him to the hospital. Those are usually the kinds of cases that you see with the necessity defense. It is a fairly rare defense also but it is out there.
Accidental Cases of Shoplifting May Also Occur From Time to Time
Interviewer: Are there any cases of accidental shop lifting?
Court Koehler: Yes, I had a case of accidental shoplifting actually not too long ago. What happened was that my client was buying some earrings and the price tags had been switched on the earrings. Actually, there is also a separate crime for switching the price tags; that’s theft as well. If you take the 50 cents sticker and put it on the $30 item, that’s a theft and that is a separate crime for it. That’s what they had thought that my client had done and there was a whole story behind it. It was not her who switched the earring price tag but they thought that it was so she ended up getting charged with theft.
Common Types of Theft Crimes that People are Generally Unaware of
Interviewer: Are there any types of theft that you notice that people are generally unaware about and they don’t really think that it’s theft and they are just saying, “Well, you know, I am not going to get in too much trouble for this”?
Court Koehler: We talked about switching the price tags earlier, that’s something that I think a lot of young kids have experimented with or have friends who have done that. I remember when I was young and hanging out in the mall back in the good old days that there were some kids who would do those kinds of things, switch price tags around. We came across a couple of those charges one day and lo and behold, that’s an actual crime that not only is it theft obviously but it has a separate charge and everything in the statutes. That’s kind of interesting.