Many people scoff at shoplifting as a minor form of crime that is barely theft. Young adults, such as college students, may be likely to think that shoplifting isn’t a serious issue. That, combined with poor impulse control or understanding of potential consequences, could lead to people making a life-altering mistake.
Regardless of why a person engages in shoplifting, getting caught can result in criminal charges for anyone over the age of 18. In cases where minors shoplift, their parents will be held civilly responsible for the value of the items in question, in addition to fines and legal costs. Neither law enforcement nor the courts are likely to look the other way when it comes to shoplifting, especially if the retailer involved wants to press charges.
Shoplifting is a common form of theft
Understanding how the state handles shoplifting charges, which result from this common form of theft, is critical to minimizing the impact of a shoplifting offense. The crime, referred to as retail theft, can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the value of the items involved and other factors.
In general, shoplifting or attempting to shoplift items worth less than $500 will result in misdemeanor charges. First time offenders accused of shoplifting or attempting to shoplift items worth under $300 will face Class A misdemeanor charges, which are the most serious form of misdemeanor. A fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail are possible.
For those with previous shoplifting or theft charges, the charges increase to a Class 4 felony, which carries between one to three years in jail and a fine of as much as $25,000. Similarly, anyone accused of using a fire exit for shoplifting purposes, even a first time offender, will face Class 4 felony charges.
Those charged with shoplifting items with a value of over $300, including items stolen over multiple transactions or visits over the course of a year, could face a Class 3 felony, which could result in between two and five years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000.
Shoplifting isn’t just hiding items in your pockets
The most common understanding of shoplifting is the practice of hiding items in an attempt to exit a store without paying for them. That process may include opening a package to remove security tags or using a device to deactivate them.
There are other forms of shoplifting, however, which include hiding items inside other items, switching packaging or price tags to pay a lower price for an item, attempting to exchange or return an item that you didn’t pay for, or even removing a shopping cart from a retail facility. Anyone accused of retail theft needs to treat the crimes as seriously as the state will and take steps to create a thorough defense.