Shoplifting may or may not be a serious crime depending on the circumstances of your alleged actions. This means that you may be able to water down your charges if you give your defense the right approach. For example, you may succeed in lowering your charges if:
The Item Was of Low Value
All factors constant, stealing an expensive gold watch will not be treated the same as stealing a toy watch. The higher the value of the item you have been accused of stealing, the more serious your charges and penalties are likely to be. Therefore, you need to get an accurate value of the item you are being accused of stealing; make sure neither the defendant nor the prosecution is using an inflated value.
You Were Intoxicated
You may also use intoxication, including voluntary intoxication, to defend your shoplifting charges. In this case, intoxication will be an imperfect defense in that you may still be prosecuted, but your charges and penalties may be downgraded. This is because intoxication doesn't excuse what you did; it just shows that you did not intend to steal the item.
You Don't Have a Criminal History
Your criminal history will always be a factor in your prosecution anytime you are accused of committing a crime. The more serious your criminal history is, the harsher your charges and sentencing will be. Part of the reason is because both the judge and prosecutor will reason that the earlier punishments didn't deter you from further crime because they were lenient so you need a harsher punishment.
You Didn't Involve Anyone Else
Shoplifting is a serious crime, involving others in the theft is an even more serious crime. This is even more so if the others are vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or those who are mentally ill. Therefore, expect more serious charges and punishment if you are accused of using your child to steal than if you are solely liable for the theft.
You Are a Drug Addict
Stealing is a crime; using illegal drugs is also a crime. In a strange twist of fate, however, one may be used to defend the other; drug addiction may be used to mitigate the punishments of theft. Note that you can't use drug addiction as a legal defense; however, your drug addiction may help you get alternative penalties, such as rehabilitation, instead of the usual penalty of jail time.
This is one of the reasons you should use a criminal defense lawyer for all your criminal charges. Otherwise, a "minor" criminal charge may end up being too complicated.