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QLD Theft - Chance to Dispute Charge?

Discussion in 'Criminal Law Forum' started by Donald, 8 June 2015.

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  1. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    Before being charged in a shop for theft, should I be given the opportunity to buy the goods?

    What are my chances of fighting the case on the grounds that I overlooked paying for the items and was not given the opportunity to pay for them?
     
  2. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Donald,

    There is no requirement that the shop give you an opportunity to pay for them. They could do this in order to get a sale and avoid pursuing this through the police or civil action, however, there is no requirement.

    Have you been charged by the police? It may not be worth worrying about unless you get charged by the police.

    As for your chances in fighting this, take a read of "Accidentally shoplifted - Police have charged me" and the Queensland Government's "Shoplifting, stealing, fraud and burglary"
     
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  3. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    Thanks Sarah J, yes I have been charged by the police and they searched and interviewed me. Have to appear in court in 14 days. What do you think? Done and dusted?
     
  4. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Donald,

    First, you must attend this court hearing. It is likely a first appearance where the magistrate reads out the charge/offence. The police/prosecution may then state the facts supporting your charge. Then, you may be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If you do not agree with the charge, or any of the facts stated by police/prosecution, you should consider pleading not-guilty. However, best to speak with a lawyer before your appearance. You can contact your local community legal centre and look into whether you qualify for legal aid.

    Second, answer the following to see if a defence is available to you:
    • What is the total value of the goods you have allegedly stolen from the store?
    • Have you received a charge sheet from the police? This is a document that tells you what offence you have been charged with, under what legislation and what section of the legislation
    • Look at your charge sheet, what section of which legislation have you been charged under?
     
  5. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    Ok, thanks. 1.Total value was less than $50
    2. I have not received the charge sheet (QP9) yet.
    3. The solicitor I have talked to said it costs a lot of money with a less than predictable outcome. That is to say it depends on the magistrates interpretation of intent to remove goods dishonestly.
    I felt intimidated and shocked, I couldn't respond in a coherent way and it all happened so quickly that before I knew it I was charged. The police were out for blood and I couldn't even say "Oh s**t I better pay for the stuff". The whole process makes you feel like a criminal, whether you are or not! I have also been given a notice to appear to be finger printed at the police station! Is this guilty until proven innocent? I thought it was innocent until proven guilty!
     
  6. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Donald,

    For theft allegations where the total value of goods is less than $150, there is a full defence available. You need to show that you were not dishonest in taking the goods. You will need to support this claim up with evidence.

    For example:
    • Do you shop at this place often? If so, have you kept receipts from previous transactions?
    • Do you live near the area? If so, you could argue that it makes no sense to steal from your local store and risk your reputation being damaged in the neighbourhood
    • Is there a way to show that you had the money to pay for the goods? Example: bank account statements showing money in your account
    • The fact that you tried to offer to purchase the goods after realising what happened is good for your case. Are there people witness to you offering to pay?
    • Was there any particular reason you may have been absent minded at the store and forgot to pay? E.g. a stressful event, interview, family issue that you may have been thinking about at the time
    • If you have a good character (e.g. no criminal history) you can bring up this point, perhaps even introduce character references. Note though, that if you allude to your good character, the prosecution/police can introduce evidence arguing for your bad character.
    The lawyer is correct that at the end of the day, it comes down to whether the magistrate believes you acted honestly or not. Your case may come down to the question: does it make sense that I would intend to step $50 worth of goods from this particular store, or is it more believable that I just forgot about the goods and did in fact intend to pay for the goods and was ready and willing to pay.
     
  7. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    Wow, I wish you were my solicitor! Thanks for the information, unfortunately I don't keep receipts. I do shop there regularly. Who knows what evidence they have? I did have a headache and was distracted measuring tool boxes. Normally I put the items down but this time I put things in my pockets. I really only offered to pay during the interview by the police, but I was expecting them to take me to the checkouts. I was feeling rotten and horrified to boot, then when I was told anything I say could be held as evidence against me I remained silent. Still haven't received the QP9 & my court appearance is on Tuesday! My solicitor says it would cost about $6500 to fight plus the time and stress, so it is tempting to put in a pre court guilty plea form and be done with it!?
     
  8. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Donald,

    If you plead guilty, this will be a conviction recorded in your criminal history. You have an arguable case that you were not acting dishonestly. Speak with a lawyer or apply for legal aid.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to how well you present your case in court and how believable you are. If you think you can present it eloquently, given it is for a small sum of money, you can try self-representing. I suspect the estimated cost of $6500 is for an appearance in court. Call around other lawyers and get other quotes. Most law firms offer free consultations for the first meeting, take advantage of this.

    If you don't have receipts, have you ever paid by card at this store? If so, check your account statements and highlight every time you have made a transaction to this store. Are there shop assistances or local shoppers who recognised you from before?

    A reasonable magistrate will understand that if you put something in your pocket, you may forget about it later on. Explain to the court why you put the items in your pocket, what you were doing at the time. Did the items clearly have security tags on them? Were they hidden pockets or fairly visible pockets? If you did intend to steal something, it would make sense to cut the tags off, or take something that didn't have security tags on them, and hid them in a bag or hidden pocket so it is not visible. Where were you in the store? How did the store detect that you stole something? Did you do this in front of a security camera? If so, wouldn't this appear inconsistent with the profile of a shop theft?

    If you made a request to pay for the goods to the police, tell the court this. Identify the police officer to whom you made this request. Have you spoken with the store and offered to pay for the stolen goods? You can write a letter to the store expressing your apologies for how things turned out, state that you did not intend to steal and offer to purchase the goods from the store. Careful to not admit guilt (if you intend to fight the charge), but try and be helpful, understanding and offer to resolve the matter with the store manager directly. You can then submit this letter to court to support your claim that you meant to harm to the store.
     
  9. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    Ok, I see your point. I did use an inside pocket as well as the two outside ones which doesn't look good. I think many of the shop attendants would recognise me. They would also have a record of my previous transactions. The store had two attendees' that witnessed me putting the items in my pocket. They even accused me of taking a tape measure until I suggests they take a look at the scuff marks on it. It wad obviously used, not new. I was probably caught on camera as well, like you say, not trying to conceal taking the items. Really though, in this case, it is my word against theirs and even though I am a health professional I am guilty of leaving the store with the goods. I admit that! Without challenging by pleading not guilty, how else can I find out how strong their case is? I would love to clear my name.
     
  10. Donald

    Donald Active Member

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    As far as representing myself, I don't perform well under pressure, so I'm not sure that's a good idea! If I lose, it means paying all costs as well, does it not!? Legal aid may just cover me, as I have no assets and only about $15,000 to my name.
     

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