Shoplifting: When it’s a Felony
Shoplifting is one of the most common theft crimes in the United States today. Depending on the value of the property stolen – it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
Shoplifting is a type of theft crime where people steal from retail establishments. It also happens to be one of the most common forms of property crimes in the U.S. costing businesses an estimated $16 billion each year.
In fact, approximately 90% of the population has shoplifted in their lifetime. These days, it’s a lot easier to get caught than it was 20 years ago. With the installation of cameras all throughout retail stores – it’s pretty difficult to get away with it.
Statistically, adolescents are the biggest shoplifters, accounting for nearly 50% of all shoplifters. However, they only steal one-third as much as their adult counterparts. Adults are more creative and ingenious when it comes to shoplifting.
Thieves have been commonly known to hide merchandise inside coats or bulky clothing. Women have gone so far as to feign a pregnancy so they could hide merchandise inside maternity clothing. People commonly hide stolen goods inside purses, backpacks and other shopping bags. In fact, people have been known to hollow out books and stuff merchandise into a fake cast.
Although some shoplifters are career criminals, others steal out of desperation. Many of them steal necessary items such as food or items for their children. They are put in a situation where they have to decide between going without a necessity and taking a risk. These risks can have grave criminal consequences when the people are eventually caught in the act.
How a person is charged in a shoplifting offense depends upon the value of the items stolen. If the value of the goods was less than $400 – it will be charged as misdemeanor petty theft, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and fines ranging from $50 to $1000.
Where the value of the property stolen was worth more than $400 – the person will be charged with grand theft, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The decision will be ultimately left up to the prosecution as how to charge you. This is normally dependent upon any past convictions on your criminal record. The penalty for grand theft can be up to one full year in jail or state prison; a large price to pay, especially if you had a momentary lapse in judgment.
The best scenario is to be charged with an infraction. An infraction is less serious than a misdemeanor and the penalty for infraction petty theft is less than $250. Infraction petty theft is applied to theft cases involving merchandise valued below $50. If you were arrested for shoplifting, your best defense is to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The last thing you want is to have to spend a number of months in jail over a mistake. Any type of conviction will result in a permanent criminal record which will haunt you for the rest of your life.