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Shoplifting Laws

Shoplifting laws are created and implemented by individual states and local jurisdictions and may result in huge fines, jail time, community service, or more severe punishments for perpetrators. Shoplifting laws and penalties typically depend on a number of factors in the case, which may include the accused individual's background and criminal history, the value of the goods stolen, the place in which the crime occurred, and other specifics. Business owners and law enforcement officials will often pursue shoplifting violations to the full extent of the law.

What is shoplifting?

Shoplifting is generally defined as taking an item without paying for it or intentionally paying less than the retail price. Shoplifting involves carrying, concealing, or otherwise manipulating any merchandise out of the store with the intent of stealing it. Shoplifting laws also consider it illegal to modify price tags, commit refund fraud, remove a shopping cart or any other commercial property from a store location, or intentionally using an illegal form of payment. Individuals can be prosecuted for acting with intent to shoplift even if the shoplifting was never fully carried out .

Shoplifting and the law

Under most state shoplifting laws, a business owner or employee has the legal right to detain a suspect if they have probable cause . Probable cause is defined under shoplifting laws as: having direct knowledge of an offender's approach, selection, concealment, movement, and/or modification of an item, and his/her failure to pay before attempting to exit the store. When a person is caught shoplifting, they will be required to return the items, will be prohibited from returning to the store for a period of time, and may be prosecuted through shoplifting laws.

Shoplifting is considered a misdemeanor petty theft if the value of the stolen goods totals less than $300 to $500. In some cases, first time offenders may be charged with a less serious crime such as disorderly conduct so as not to face the consequences imposed by shoplifting laws.

If an offender has a history of shoplifting or the value of the stolen goods exceeds $500, shoplifting laws often yield harsher penalties. An offender can be charged with grand theft or larceny , both of which are felony crimes. Under shoplifting laws, a person who is convicted of this crime may receive a sentence that includes jail or prison time, punitive fines, community service, and/or other penalties.

Have you been accused of shoplifting?

If you have been accused of shoplifting, it is important to seek the immediate assistance of an experienced criminal law lawyer who can inform you of the shoplifting laws in your state, protect your legal rights, and maximize your interests. Contact a qualified attorney near you.

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