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
  • Pre-Arraignment Diversion for Hospital Worker Accused of Shoplifting

    The defendant is a recent college graduate and a hospital worker. This past fall she was in a local department store when loss prevention officials observed her stealing a significant amount of store merchandise. They detained her and obtained a full confession. She was summonsed to court charged with shoplifting in violation of G.L. c. 266 Section 30A. Had she been arraigned she would have lost her job. Attorney Neyman was hired. Today, our office was able to get the defendant pre-arraignment diversion under G.L. c. 276A. She was not arraignment and all charges will be dismissed.

    Read More in G.L. c. 276A

  • Shoplifting Charges Do Not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Several weeks ago a woman was shopping in a local supermarket. She went to the self checkout kiosk, paid for some of the groceries and did not pay for many others. She bagged all items and casually left the store. Unbeknownst to her store security was monitoring her actions. They observed that theft and stopped her outside the store. The found all items and her receipt. The value of the merchandise did not match with the receipt. Security cameras corroborated the theft. Local police were called and a summons for shoplifting under G.L. c. 266 Section 30A issued. The woman is not a citizen and any adverse result could lead to deportation. Today, our office defended the woman at a clerk magistrate hearing. No charges issued.

    Read More Theft Crimes

  • 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

Client Reviews
We went to trial and won. He saved me fifteen years mandatory in state prison for this case. A.C. Boston, Massachusetts
I hired him and he got the case dismissed before I had to go into a courtroom. My school never found out and if they had I would have lost my academic scholarships. He really saved my college career. Melissa C. Cold Spring, New York, October 2013
My union rep told me to call Steve Neyman. From the get go I felt comfortable with him. He took the time to talk to me about my case whenever I needed .... He even gave me his personal cell number and took all my calls. We won the case and I kept my job. Bart L. S.
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