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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
  • Felony Larceny Charges Against Non-Citizen to be Dismissed Following Pretrial Probation Under G.L. c. 276 Section 87

    The defendant is a non-citizen lawfully in the United States pursuant to a work visa. In May of 2019 she was caught stealing from an upscale store in a Boston suburb. Loss prevention officers observed the woman using a theft detection deactivation device to remove security devices from expensive goods. The woman secreted the items in her body and in bags bearing the names of other stores in the near vicinity. Once the woman left the property loss prevention officers detained her and contacted local law enforcement. The acts were caught on surveillance cameras. Charges of larceny over $1,200 under G.L. c. 266 Section 30 issued. That is a felony. Charges of unlawful deactivation or removal of a theft detection device also issued. This too is a felony under G.L. c. 266 Section 30B. Inasmuch as the woman is a non-citizen it was imperative that she not be convicted of these offenses and that there be no admission of responsibility. Attorney Neyman was hired. Today, we were able to have the district attorney's office and the judge agree to resolve the case with pretrial probation under G.L. c. 276 Section 87. There will be no immigration consequences. 

    Read More in Theft Crimes

  • Complaint for Shoplifting Against Local College Professor Does Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    The defendant is a professor at a local university. He is not an American citizen. Several months ago he was caught shoplifting in a local Target store. He was given a summons for a clerk magistrate hearing. He hired our office to represent him. He was facing termination from his job if a complaint issued and possible deportation if he were to be found guilty or had admitted to sufficient facts. Attorney Neyman represented him at the clerk magistrate hearing and succeeded in convincing the clerk magistrate not to issue a complaint.

    Read More in Clerk Magistrate Hearings

  • Shoplifting Charges Against College Student Nolle Prossed Prior to Arraignment

    Last night the defendant, a local college student was arrested after she was caught stealing from a high end cosmetic store. Normally the woman would have received a summons for a clerk magistrate hearing however since she had no identification in her position she was arrested. Her father bailed her out and contacted our office to defend her. An arraignment charging shoplifting in violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 30A was scheduled for today. Attorney Neyman was able to get the case nolle prossed prior to arraignment. The case is over and the defendant will have no CORI entries.

    Read More in Theft Crimes

Client Reviews
"We went to trial and won. He saved me fifteen years mandatory in state prison for this case." A.C. Boston, Massachusetts
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"The best criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts. Takes all of his client's calls at any time of the day or night. He was always there for me and my family. Steve saved my life." Jacquille D. Brockton, Massachusetts
"In less than two months Stephen Neyman got my old conviction vacated. I now have no criminal record." Paul W. Boston, Massachusetts