Massachusetts G.L. c. 266, § 30A: Shoplifting; penalty; arrest without warrant

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, section 30A, it is a crime to shoplift merchandise. This statute considers various different acts to fall under the crime of shoplifting. Before a defendant can be found guilty of shoplifting, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed one at least one of those acts, and did so with the required intent. Those acts include the following:

(1) Shoplifting generally:

  • The defendant intentionally took possession of merchandise, carried away merchandise, transferred merchandise, or caused merchandise to be carried away or transferred;
  • The merchandise was displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale by a store or other retail merchant;
  • The defendant did so with the intention of depriving the store or merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise, or with the intention of converting the merchandise to the defendant’s own use; and
  • The defendant did not pay the store or merchant for the value of the merchandise.

(2) Shoplifting by concealing merchandise:

  • The defendant intentionally concealed retail merchandise, either on his person or anywhere else;
  • The defendant did so with the intention of depriving the store or merchant of the proceeds, use, or benefit of the merchandise, or with the intention of converting the merchandise to the defendant’s own use; and
  • The defendant did not pay the store or merchant for the value of the merchandise.

(3) Shoplifting by switching a price tag:

  • The defendant intentionally altered, transferred, or removed a label, price tag, or other marking that was used for determining the price of retail merchandise that was displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale;
  • The defendant attempted to purchase that merchandise personally, or with another person, for an amount less than the full retail price of the merchandise; and
  • The defendant did so with the intention of depriving the store or merchant of all or part of the retail value of the merchandise.

(4) Shoplifting by switching containers:

  • The defendant intentionally transferred merchandise that was displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale, from the container in which it was being displayed, to some other container; and
  • The defendant did so with the intention of depriving the store or merchant of all or part of the retail value of the merchandise.

(5) Shoplifting by ringing up a false price:

  • The defendant intentionally recorded (or rung up) a value for retail merchandise;
  • The value the defendant recorded was less than the actual retail value of the merchandise; and
  • The defendant did so with the intention of depriving the store or merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise.

(6) Removing a shopping cart:

  • The defendant intentionally removed a shopping cart from a store’s or merchant’s premises;
  • The defendant did not have the consent of the store or merchant to remove the shopping cart at the time of the removal; and
  • The defendant did so with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the shopping cart.

“Retail merchandise” includes goods or products that are typically offered for sale directly to consumers, as opposed to goods that are sold in bulk to merchants, but not directly to the public. The value of the merchandise is important, as the higher the value of the merchandise shoplifted, the more severe the penalties for the crime. Additionally, if a store or merchant accuses a person of shoplifting, the police may arrest that person without any further evidence of the crime.

Related Offenses
  • G.L. c. 266, § 30 (larceny)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 30B (unlawful distribution, possession, or deactivation or removal of theft detection shielding device)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 30C (possession, use, counterfeit, etc. of receipts, price ticket, or universal product code label with intent to defraud)
  • G.L. c. 266, §30D (organized retail crime)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 60 (stolen goods; buying, receiving, or aiding in concealment)
Defenses to Shoplifting

The best defense to charges of shoplifting depends on the particular facts of the case. Often, a skilled defense attorney can successfully suppress evidence that the Commonwealth would want to use against the defendant, meaning that the Commonwealth will be prohibited from offering that evidence at trial. There may also be evidence that would be favorable to the defendant, including surveillance video from the store that might show that the defendant did not intentionally shoplift, that would certainly be part of a good defense strategy. If, for example, the defendant simply forgot that an item was underneath his shopping cart on the lower rack, and forgot to include it in the items for the clerk to ring up, a video may show the defendant being absentminded, rather than intentionally trying to conceal that item and not get caught walking out without paying for it. Finally, the defense would be smart to challenge the claimed value of the item that was allegedly shoplifted, since that value would determine the extent of the punishment, if a jury convicts the defendant.

Penalties

If the retail value of the merchandise is less than $100:

  • For a first offense, the defendant faces a fine of up to $250;
  • For a second offense, the defendant faces a fine of at least $100 and up to $500;
  • For a third or subsequent offense, the defendant faces a fine of up to $500, or up to two years in jail, or both a fine and imprisonment.

If the retail value of the merchandise is equal to or greater than $100, then the defendant faces a fine of up to $1,000, or up to two and one-half years in the house of corrections, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Shoplifting Defense Attorney Stephen Neyman

No matter how petty the crime of shoplifting may seem, conviction or a “guilty” plea can carry serious consequences for the defendant down the line. A defendant charged under G.L. c. 266, § 30A should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate the defendant’s case and counsel him or her on the best defense strategy and other available options, aiming to get the client the best possible result. Please contact Attorney Stephen Neyman today at 617-263-6800 for a free consultation.

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