Shoplifting

How is Shoplifting Defined in Massachusetts?

Boston is the largest city in New England with a relatively low and steadily decreasing crime rate. However, earlier in 2013, the Boston Globe reported that several malls were installing security cameras in common areas in order to get tough on shoplifting and other crimes. In Massachusetts, “shoplifting” involves a broad range of actions in which a person takes an item without paying for it. Defined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30A, shoplifting includes stealing a shopping cart, switching a price tag or label, and eating food while shopping. Even hiding goods with the intent to steal them later is considered shoplifting in Massachusetts.

Shoplifting can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the item taken and the criminal record of the person accused. The cutoff is $100. If you shoplift items less than $100, a fine of $250 for a first offense and $500 for a second may be levied. However, once you cross the threshold, shoplifting is much more serious, carrying potential jail time of 2 ½ years and a $1000 fine. Shoplifting is its own crime in Massachusetts, but if the value of the stolen item is over $100, it can be charged as larceny instead.

If you have been charged with shoplifting, an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can try to negotiate with the prosecutor, get the charges dropped, or obtain a favorable outcome at trial, depending upon your particular circumstances.

When is Shoplifting a Felony?

The act of shoplifting may be charged as felony larceny in certain instances. If you shoplift goods worth between $100-249, you can be charged with misdemeanor larceny. But felony larceny may be charged if you shoplift goods believed to be worth more than $250.

Like other elements of the crime, the value of the goods must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Prosecutors may use surveillance videos, business records, and receipts to show the value of the item stolen and prove the other elements of the shoplifting charge.

It is common to consider shoplifting a relatively minor crime, and for defendants to want to plead guilty immediately just to get the humiliation of the experience out of the way. However, once you are convicted one time, the penalties for subsequent offenses may increase exponentially.

Sometimes a district attorney will offer to fine a defendant a minor amount in order to get a guilty plea on a first or second offense. This builds the defendant’s criminal record. If he or she gets caught a third time (or any time after that), these earlier guilty pleas may have a severe and adverse impact on the outcome of a trial. Just as importantly, in some cases, a shoplifting conviction may limit your employment opportunities.

Therefore, if you are charged with any shoplifting crime—whether it is for something as small in value as a box of nails or something as high in value as a Louis Vuitton handbag, it behooves you to contact an experienced attorney to figure out a good defense strategy.

How to Defend a Shoplifting Charge

A defense attorney with experience defending against shoplifting charges can work to preserve favorable evidence, suppress negative evidence, and use his or her own skills and knowledge to get the best outcome. That attorney may also be able to challenge the value of the items in instances where the value is in question and the prosecutor has chosen to charge a more serious crime than necessary. A knowledgeable defense attorney can also challenge a shoplifting charge by arguing a lack of probable cause to detain you or search your bags.

If you are charged with shoplifting, increase your chances of a positive case outcome by consulting an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer. Contact us at (617) 263-6800 or via our online form.

Case Results » Shoplifting
  • Waltham District Court: Shoplifting Charges Against Non-Citizen Dismissed After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    The defendant is a non-citizen who moved to Massachusetts to attend school on a student visa. A few weeks ago the defendant was shopping at a local Target store. The defendant processed some merchandise at a self-service checkout kiosk. However much of the goods in the shopping cart were not scanned or paid for at the checkout. Loss prevention watched the defendant's actions and stopped her as she attempted to exit the store with the goods. She confessed to the loss prevention personnel and local police. A summons for a clerk magistrate hearing issued charging her with shoplifting by asportation in violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 30A. Knowing that anything short of pretrial probation or a dismissal could result in a revocation of her student visa she hired Attorney Stephen Neyman. Today, our office was able to convince the clerk magistrate not to issue the complaint.

    Read More in Clerk Magistrate Hearings

  • Woburn District Court: Charges of Felony Shoplifting do not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    The defendant is a non-citizen professional woman. The prosecution claimed that on January 14, 2018 Burlington, Massachusetts police were contacted by loss prevention at a local Macy's store. The store employees had detained a woman whom they had observed stealing several items valued at hundreds of dollars. The woman admitted to the police that she had in fact stolen these items. She was charged with felony shoplifting in violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 30A. This woman is not a citizen and any adverse outcome could have resulted in deportation. Attorney Neyman represented the woman at a clerk magistrate hearing today. No charges issued.

    Read More in Clerk Magistrate Hearings

  • Woburn District Court: Pretrial Probation for Non-Citizen Charged With Three Felony Theft Crimes

    The defendant is a non-citizen working towards her Masters Degree and employed in the technology field. On December 9, 2017 police from Burlington, Massachusetts were dispatched to the Macy's store in the Burlington Mall. There, loss prevention officers had the defendant in their custody. The woman was observed on security cameras removing the theft detection devices from various items and putting them in a large pocketbook she was carrying. The woman exited the store with the items and was stopped. The value of the goods exceeded $250 making the theft a felony under G.L. c. 266 Section 30. The woman also had in her possession two theft detection devices. This crime is a felony under G.L. c. 266 Section 30B. Any resolution short of pretrial probation under G.L. c. 276 Section 87 would likely result in the defendant being deported and denied reentry into the country. Today, our office was able to get the woman 6 months pretrial probation.

    Read More in Pretrial Probation

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In less than two months Stephen Neyman got my old conviction vacated. I now have no criminal record. Paul W. Boston, Massachusetts