Some states have shoplifting laws, while others, including Missouri, include this offense in its theft laws. Most people view shoplifting as a petty crime, at worst, but such charges can lead to harsh penalties.
Whether a rite of passage for your teen, an impulsive mistake for you or something done from a place of desperation, stealing is not always a minor offense. Depending on the value of the goods, a conviction could lead to jail time.
Forms of shoplifting
Of course, leaving a retail establishment with unpurchased merchandise is the classic example of shoplifting, but the unlawful taking of items happens in other ways, too.
For example, those who fail to scan every item in their cart at a supermarket self-checkout can face an arrest for “skip scanning.” According to representatives with the Kroger chain, most skip scanning appears to occur accidentally, but that does not automatically rule out an arrest.
Three other common forms of shoplifting are:
- Hiding goods inside other items
- Changing price tags on merchandise
- Removing, or trying to remove, security devices from items
Even something innocent like forgetting to pay for expensive merchandise on the bottom rack of a shopping cart can result in theft charges.
What are the penalties?
Taking merchandise with a very low value generally leads to misdemeanor charges. However, if the items are worth as low as $750, you could face a Class D felony charge, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines approaching $10,000.
Avoiding conviction should be your primary goal if arrested for shoplifting. Additional knowledge of state law and experienced legal guidance can improve your chances of meeting this goal.