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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
  • 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

  • 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

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