Shoplifting laws — and shoplifters — are complicated

| Mar 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Shoplifting can carry a wide range of criminal penalties, including fines, probation, jail time and even driver’s license suspension. Most shoplifting crimes are various degrees of misdemeanors.

The level of charge is dependent largely on the value of the merchandise allegedly stolen and how many (if any) previous shoplifting convictions the defendant has had. The specific charge is petit theft if the merchandise is valued at $300 or less. If it’s $301 or more (which isn’t a very large price tag for many retailers), that kicks the charge up to grand theft, which is a felony. A conviction for that could land you behind bars for as long as five years.

Shoplifters have long been stereotyped as teens who can’t resist a piece of jewelry or some other easy-to-grab item. However, according to one provider of drug, alcohol abuse and other behavioral change programs, shoplifters fall into seven different categories.

These include people who steal things (often necessities) because they don’t have the money to buy them or they need to sell what they take to support a drug habit. Teen shoplifters, if they’re not addicts, often fall in to the “thrill seeker” category.

The most common type of shoplifter

The most common category of shoplifter, which describes about half of them, is “addictive compulsive.” They tend to have other compulsive behaviors, like overeating, gambling or shopping. They generally can afford to pay for the items they take and often make purchases amidst their shoplifting.

These people may be dealing with personal or emotional issues. For them, shoplifting is a secret vice. If they’re caught, they typically offer to just pay for the item(s).

The absent-minded shoplifter

Another category is the “absent-minded” shoplifter. That has happened – or nearly happened – to most of us. It’s easy to forget that you’re walking around carrying something and absent-mindedly start to leave the store without putting it back or paying for it when an alarm or an employee stops you. It’s also easy not to notice that your child is carrying something they picked up.

Absent-minded shoplifters are often caught because they’re not trying to hide an item. However, a store manager may not believe that they weren’t trying to get away with something.

Whatever the situation, if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for alleged shoplifting, it’s imperative that you take the matter seriously. An experienced attorney can offer valuable guidance and help.


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