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
  • Boston Municipal Court: Felony Shoplifting Case Against Non-Citizen Student Dismissed Prior to Arraignment

    The defendant is a student from an Asian country and a non-citizen. Several months ago she was caught shoplifting an amount of merchandise that exceeded $250 making the crime a felony. The woman was charged with violating G.L. c. 266 Section 30A, shoplifting. If she were convicted she would have a felony record and likely face deportation. Our office was able to negotiate a resolution prior to arraignment. In exchange for some community service and an agreement to stay away from the store from which the defendant stole the case would be dismissed prior to arraignment. Today the case was dismissed prior to arraignment.

    Read More in Theft Crimes

  • Waltham District Court: Pretrial Probation for Local Business Owner Charged With Multiple Felony Thefts

    On September 20, 2017 a Watertown, Massachusetts police officer responded to a call for a theft at a local Target store. A loss prevention officer had a male shoplifter, the defendant detained. The loss prevention officer recalled that the defendant had recently stolen a significant amount of merchandise from the store that went unprosecuted. This time, security videos captured the defendant and an accomplice stealing several thousand dollars worth of merchandise. He was also seen removing theft protection devices from the items. Charges of larceny over $250 G.L. c. 266 Section 30, unlawful possession of theft detection deactivator or remover G.L. c. 266 Section 30B and receiving stolen property over $250 G.L. c. 266 Section 60 were charged. Attorney Neyman was hired and was able to get pretrial probation under G.L. c. 276 Section 87 for the defendant. He will have no criminal record.

    Read More in Pretrial Probation

  • Fall River District Court: Shoplifting by Concealing Case Dismissed After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    Several weeks ago loss prevention officers at a local cosmetic store observed a young woman casually placing objects into her pocketbook while walking up and down the aisles. They watched the woman until she left the premises without attempting to pay for the goods taken. She was confronted, detained and questioned. The woman readily admitted to having stolen the items valued in excess of $250, making this crime a felony. She also stated that this was not the first time she had done this but it was the first time she was caught. She was charged with shoplifting by concealing, a crime under G.L. c. 266 Section 30A. Today, at a clerk magistrate hearing Attorney Neyman was able to get the charges dismissed.

    Read More in Theft Crimes

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