While technology has allowed retail stores and other businesses to improve security with the help of CCTVs or video surveillance systems, shoplifting continues to be a common occurrence in many parts of the United States. Considered a property crime, it affects businesses across the country, costing them billions of dollars every year.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is the act of going into a store with the intent of obtaining items or goods by deceiving the store and its personnel. The following situations all describe different shoplifting scenarios:
-When a person removes an item or product from a display and leaves the store without paying for it
-When a person hides or conceals an item or items
-When a person alters, substitutes, disfigures, or removes the price tags, labels, or marks of items or goods
-When a person charges the payment of certain goods to someone without their consent or to a person who does not exist
-When a person transfers goods from one bottle, container, or box to another before purchasing the items
A person who is caught shoplifting can be charged with a misdemeanor or arrested for committing a felony theft. The law is different from state to state, so what constitutes a misdemeanor for some may be a felony for others. This can be scary and confusing for first-time offenders, which is why the guidance, expertise, and service of a theft lawyer are vital.
A lawyer’s expert legal advice will also help determine whether a shoplifter committed a misdemeanor or felony.
Shoplifting As a Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is described as a lesser crime or a minor offense. According to the federal government, any crime given a maximum sentence of one year or less is considered a misdemeanor. The classification of misdemeanors and their corresponding penalties differ according to state.
Examples of misdemeanor crimes include vandalism, driving without a license, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, basic assault (i.e., when someone hurts another individual without intending to injure them), trespassing, and petty theft or shoplifting.
In most states, the value of the stolen items is used to determine whether the crime is a misdemeanor or not. In Arizona, for example, a shoplifting crime is considered a misdemeanor if the stolen goods are worth less than $1,000. There are exceptions, though, such as:
- If the shoplifting act happened as a part of a crime spree
- If the shoplifting was carried out to help or promote a criminal group or gang
- If the stolen goods included firearms
- If the theft was committed using a device, instrument, container, or artifice
Typically, if a shoplifter is convicted for a misdemeanor, they are fined and given several months to one year of jail time. Second convictions, specifically those that happen two years after the first one, are given higher penalties, such as a sentence intended for class 6 felonies.
Aside from fines and jail time, misdemeanor shoplifters are also required to repay the value of the goods they stole and join a shoplifting class. Some shoplifters also get probation, which is considered a minimum penalty.
Shoplifting penalties are also based on several factors, including the case details, the store where the stealing happened, the prosecutor, and the judge.
Shoplifting As a Felony
As in misdemeanor cases, the value of the stolen goods is used to determine if a shoplifting crime is a felony. If the amount is over the minimum limit or price, the crime becomes felony shoplifting.
A felony is defined as a crime that typically involves a violent act or violence. It is one of the most serious crimes anyone can commit and results in jail time lasting one or more years. Some examples of a felony include arson, first-degree murder, drug trafficking, and murder.
Felony crimes are divided into several classifications depending on the offenses and their corresponding penalties and punishments.
An act of shoplifting becomes a felony if:
- The criminal act happened as a part of a crime spree
- The crime was carried out to help or promote a criminal group or gang
- The stolen goods included firearms
- The crime was committed using a device, instrument, container, or artifice
Generally, if a person caught shoplifting took goods with a total value of $500 to $1,000, they can be charged with a felony. The amount, though, can vary from one state to another.
Aside from the typical shoplifting felony, a person can also be convicted of a categorical felony. This happens when they steal items that can result in a felony charge regardless of the stolen goods’ value. These items include incendiary devices, firearms, and explosives. If a person is caught shoplifting firearms or some form of explosives, they can be charged with a felony crime.
Penalties for felony shoplifting depend on the classification of the crime. For example, in Arizona, a Class 6 Felony would result in four months to two years of prison time, and probation while a Class 4 Felony can put the shoplifter in jail for one to 3.75 years and probation.
If you have been charged with shoplifting – whether as a misdemeanor or felony – find a lawyer experienced in theft cases if you want the charges against you reduced or dropped.
About the Author
Stephanie Gordon currently works as the Content Marketing Strategist for the Arizona Criminal Law Team. Aside from spreading awareness about criminal law and defense, she enjoys reading and trail running with her family and friends.No tags for this post.