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What are the chances of facing jail time for larceny if it's my first offense?

Upton, MA |

I was caught trying to shoplift $300 worth of clothes in a Macy's yesterday. I was brought to the office where they took down my information and had me sign some papers admitting to what I had done, the LP woman had a cop come to verify my information since I had forgotten my ID at home. I am an 18 year old girl and I have a completely clean record. I wasn't arrested and I was allowed to walk out of the store but the cop said I'd receive a letter in the mail for a court date and what I had done was a felony. I'm really afraid I'm gonna have to go to jail for this even though it was my first offense. I'm a college student and I can't sleep worrying about facing jail time.

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Attorney answers 6


First, it depends on how they charge you. If you are charged with larceny over $250, the potential penalty is up to 5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If you are charged with shoplifting over $100, the potential is up to 2 1/2 years and $1,000 fine. However, based on the fact that you are only 18 and have no criminal record, I would not worry about jail time. You should definitely speak to a criminal defense attorney if in fact you receive a summons to appear in court. You will want to preserve your clean record, and an attorney can likely help you avoid a conviction.


They probably charged you with Larceny over $250 and that is a felony, whereas Larceny under $250 is not.
Since you are young, and cooperated with authorities and you stole clothes, not like a car or anything, I would not worry about jail time. You should be able to get a continuation without a finding, which saves your record from a conviction. Please contact a criminal defense attorney to explain everything properly to you.


My view is that you have a ZERO chance of jail.

Does this answer your question?

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Ok, first off, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO JAIL FOR THIS, so stop worrying about that. You are being charged with a felony - because of the value of your theft.

You need to get an attorney to represent you on this matter. You can be appointed an attorney if you can't afford one.


If you are charged with larceny over $250.00 it is a felony in Massachusetts. That being said, it sounds as if all the property was returned and you admitted to what had happened. I would suggest you contact a lawyer prior to going to court. They may be able to negotiate that the charges be reduced to larceny under $250 (a misdemeanor) or of it is scheduled for a show cause hearing, thy the matter not advance to arraignment. Where you already made statements admitting what happened, you absolutely want to go to court with representation.


Don't worry about getting jail time on this, and try to get some sleep :) The worst you are probably looking at is a continuation without a finding with probation, with a condition to stay out of the Macy's for the period of probation. Your more pressing concern is whether this matter will end up on your criminal record.

There are two letters you can receive in the mail. One is a notice of a clerk's hearing, the other is a notice of arraignment. Even though the amount of merchandise taken puts you into felony territory, you can still get a clerk's hearing for a felony if the police request a clerk's hearing. The purpose of the clerk's hearing is to determine if a criminal complaint against you should issue; if the clerk decides to issue the complaint, then you are scheduled for an arraignment. If the notice you receive in the mail is a notice of an arraignment, then you will not get a clerk's hearing before you are arraigned.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because once you are arraigned, then the charge (probably Larceny Over $250) will appear on your criminal record and remain on your record, regardless of whether you are "convicted" of the crime, unless and until you get your record sealed. Who can see the charge depends on the outcome of the case, the identity of the party seeking to see your record and the age of the case. I have included a link to a legal guide I wrote which discusses criminal records access.

The goal in your case is to get the matter disposed of prior to being arraigned. If you get a clerk's hearing, then this is your first opportunity to resolve the matter short of an arraignment. If you get notice of an arraignment, attempt can still be made to resolve the matter short of an arraignment. Your chances of achieving the goal of never being arraigned increases substantially if you have an attorney representing you.

Best of luck,

Dominic Pang (617-538-1127)

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