Why People Shoplift – and How It Can Help Your Defense

There are many misconceptions behind shoplifting. While many people place the blame on rowdy teenagers or seasoned criminals, the more common causes are often ignored. Most shoplifters are employed, nonviolent adults who are struggling with psychological issues or conflicts.

Just like there are many different types of retail theft, there are many different reasons behind shoplifting. If you or someone you love has been charged with this offense, seek out a knowledgeable retail theft lawyer who has successfully handled cases like this before, and can use his or her knowledge of the psychology behind shoplifting to try to get your charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.

What are some reasons why people shoplift?

Peer Pressure. We can all remember situations growing up where you or a friend were pressured by others to do something you didn’t want to do. Many – especially teens – can be pressured into stealing from stores by their friends.

But not just teenagers are guilty of using peer pressure to persuade their friends. Adults still use this strategy for a variety of reasons. This can create a tricky situation in the courtroom, if only one person in a group has been caught and charged.

Financial Need. In some incidents of shoplifting, a person feels they cannot afford the item(s) he or she wants. The only way for them to get them is to steal them. This type of motivation tends to be at the center of thefts that involve many food and clothing items. Additionally, the individual stealing may not be doing so for themselves, but for others – including children.

Denver Shoplifting Attorney

Depression. The psychological issues that cause shoplifting are rarely spoken about, even though they are at the root of many different shoplifting cases.

Namely, shoplifting is often the result of depression or similar disorders. The emotional “high” one gets from shoplifting can provide a much-needed burst of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that produces positive emotions.

There are many reported cases of people stealing around the holiday season or on their birthday for this reason. The pressure to be happy around those times leads people seeking that happiness to commit desperate acts.

This burst of dopamine, however, can become addictive. Shoplifting can become a habit very quickly, similar to gambling, overeating, or using drugs.

Kleptomania. Another disorder that causes people to shoplift is called kleptomania, a psychological state that causes people to have an uncontrollable urge to take things that are not theirs.

As defined under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, kleptomania has specific criteria that separates it from mania or delusion, and leads to theft that is not committed out of revenge or financial need. It is common for people who have kleptomania also experience other mood or anxiety disorders.

With Shoplifting, the “Why” Can Sometimes Be Your Defense

If you were pressured into stealing, if you did it out of desperation, or if you literally could not stop yourself, an experienced Colorado theft lawyer may be able to use this information to negotiate a better plea deal for you. Especially if you are willing to seek help.

Along these lines, if you or anyone in your family has a history of depression, anxiety, or other similar disorders, you should let your defense attorney know right away.  The court may decide that, rather than punishment, what you really need is rehabilitation.

The consequences for shoplifting in Colorado are severe, but remember that you still have rights. One of those rights includes mounting the strongest defense possible.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.