A conviction for theft or shoplifting can have a long-lasting effect upon a person’s life, in a variety of different ways.
Shoplifting and theft are seen as crimes of “moral turpitude” by our legal system, which means that a person who is convicted is seen as dishonest. The legal theory is that some crimes (such as theft, shoplifting, embezzlement, etc.) involve dishonesty and therefore a person who is convicted should be seen as a dishonest character. Such a conviction can have lasting negative consequences in all areas of life:
Employment – A person who is convicted of theft may lose their existing job or be unable to obtain a new job. Employers routinely run background checks on new and existing employees to check for such a conviction. Employers are obviously concerned that if they employ a person who has committed a theft in the past, that person may commit a theft in the future. Even the least-serious misdemeanor theft conviction can disqualify a person from a job.
Professional licenses – To obtain a license in many professions (doctor, lawyer, nurse, CNA, etc.) it is necessary for a person to show “good character.” A conviction for theft or shoplifting is often enough to prevent a person from passing that component of the licensing process. Often, people do not know about that issue until they have incurred thousands of dollars in student loans, creating a major issue.
Immigration – Crimes of moral turpitude, such as theft or shoplifting, can prevent a person from obtaining citizenship, or cause a person to be deported. Thus, even the least serious theft conviction that results in no jail time can have profound immigration consequences.
Reputation in general – Online court records make it easier than ever for a person to lookup another person’s criminal history. People routinely make use of such online court records to lookup information about friends, acquaintances, partners, etc.
The best way to handle a theft or shoplifting charge is to remain silent and seek an attorney at once, as such cases are important to handle properly. Doing so when the case is new is much more likely to result in a positive outcome.
For those who were convicted, of a theft or shoplifting charge, there may still be hope for a favorable resolution. Some theft and shoplifting convictions can be expunged or sealed. Others cannot. However, in cases where sealing or expunging is not possible, seeking executive clemency (a pardon) may be an option.