Shoplifting is the crime of stealing merchandise for sale in a retail store. To commit the crime of shoplifting, one must intend to permanently deprive the store owner or merchant of the merchandise. This is done usually by concealing the merchandise in a bag or pocket and walking out of the store without paying, or by pushing it out in a stroller.

Shoplifting is a type of theft known as larceny. Larceny laws will vary from state to state. Some states may prosecute shoplifters under theft laws, but many have enacted laws that specifically deal with shoplifting.

This crime includes not only the removal of items from the store without paying, but also switching price tags so as to pay less for items, wearing clothing and then returning it, and eating food in a store without paying for it.

What are the Potential Consequences for Shoplifting?

Stores may detain suspected shoplifters for a reasonable amount of time and question them in a reasonable manner, if they have probable cause to do so. This is referred to as the shopkeeper’s privilege. The store employees may also contact the police.

Criminal charges for shoplifting will generally depend upon the value of the merchandise stolen. In cases with a lesser value of merchandise stolen, the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor. Thefts of greater value may be punishable as felonies. Felonies are much more serious, as they carry greater penalties, particularly in terms of jail time.

States’ statutes may vary widely in their legal consequences for shoplifting, in terms of whether the crime is charged as some level of misdemeanor, felony, or possibly merely an infraction. State prosecutors may have discretion in charging offenders, depending upon the circumstances, and upon their criminal records (if any).

What are the Consequences for Minors?

Shoplifting penalties are still serious for children under the age of 18. If convicted, the charges will be reflected on the minor’s record. With the assistance of an attorney, minors should complete any available programs or community service which may lessen or remove their charges. They should also follow up on having their records expunged in the future.

Can Adults Also Have the Charges Expunged?

An adult convicted of shoplifting may, a certain amount of time after the conviction, petition to have the conviction expunged. This request is much more likely to be granted if the adult was convicted only of a misdemeanor.

It take a lot of time and effort to have your record expunged as an adult. If you’d like to learn more about how to get your criminal record expunged, then read: How to Get a Misdemeanor Expunged and How to Get a Felony Expunged.

Should I Contact an Attorney to Deal with Shoplifting Charges?

If you have been charged with shoplifting, you should contact an attorney for assistance. They can help you in seeing whether it’s possible to get your charges lessened, and, possibly, eventually expunged. Criminal records will affect your ability to gain employment.

If your minor child has been charged with shoplifting, even for a very minor value of merchandise, you should contact a local criminal attorney, so that everything possible may be done to keep the minor from having a criminal record indefinitely. Criminal convictions can have major consequences for minor, for example, when it comes to getting into colleges or getting jobs.