Mental health issues can lead to a shoplifting charge in Denver

The penalties for shoplifting in Denver, Colorado, can be harsh, and the results of this type of conviction can affect people for the rest of their lives. People shoplift for a variety of reasons, but in some cases, it can be a mental health issue that drives the behavior.

Kleptomania

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, numerous psychological studies have shown that an impulse control disorder called kleptomania is the source of many people's theft behavior.

While the mental health disorder kleptomania may be claimed as an excuse for shoplifting by some who are merely wanting to escape responsibility for the crime, it is a legitimate issue when a person meets the following criteria:

  • Other mental health disorders do not apply.
  • Anger, vengeance, delusions or hallucinations do not influence the theft.
  • The theft is preceded by building tension, and followed by feelings of pleasure or relief.
  • The items stolen are not needed.

The Mayo Clinic states that the compulsion to steal may be treated with psychotherapy or medication.

Addiction

While some addictions are the result of chemical changes in the brain caused by substance use, Psychology Today lists many addictive behaviors that people can develop, including shoplifting. Activities that release dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain can eventually lead to a loss of impulse control. An addicted person is unable to stop the behavior in spite of awareness of the negative consequences.

Common symptoms of addiction include strong cravings and recurrent use that impairs a person's ability to perform normal functions. A person may also develop a need to escalate the behavior in order to achieve the same response, and continuing to engage in the activity often leads to health problems and mood disorders such as depression. However, attempting to stop the behavior causes strong physical reactions such as anxiety and nausea.

Colorado shoplifting statute

According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, anyone who leaves a store with an unpaid item is guilty of shoplifting. Even when a person merely hides it somewhere in clothing or a bag, it is shoplifting. Not only is a shoplifter subject to criminal charges, the owner of the merchandise can prosecute, as well.

A judge may order a person who has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or addiction to receive treatment from a mental health provider. However, this does not waive the criminal conviction or prevent a civil suit. A person who has been accused of shoplifting may benefit from the advice of a defense attorney who is familiar with the Colorado legal system.