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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
  • Felony Charges of Larceny Over $1,200 Dismissed After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    In late December of 2021 police were called by loss prevention to a high end department store located in a suburban mall. Two siblings had been detained. Loss prevention observed both concealing and ultimately stealing items valued at over $4,000.00 dollars. Exercising tremendous restraint and compassion, rather than charge the defendants with a felony the officers elected to proceed by way of clerk magistrate hearing and charged both with larceny over $1,200.00, a felony under G.L. c. 266 section 30 and conspiracy under G.L. c. 274 section 7. One of the siblings is an adult and the other a juvenile. Today, we convinced the clerk magistrate not to issue the complaint against the adult. The juvenile's case will be heard at a later date. 

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  • Felony Charges of Larceny Over $1,200 and Shoplifting Against Entertainment Executive do not Issue After Clerk Magistrate Hearing

    On January 22, 2022 police were called to a high end clothing store for a report of a theft. Loss prevention personnel met the officers to advise that they observed a woman stealing items the value of which exceeded $1,200, thereby making the crime a felony in Massachusetts. A clerk magistrate hearing was scheduled charging a violation of G.L. c. 266 section 30A. We convinced the clerk's office that our client, a well know figure in the entertainment industry, had been suffering from depression and anxiety, that she had no prior record and that all of the merchandise had been returned, uncompromised. Based on that and our representation, no complaint issued. 

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  • Charges of Aggravated Shoplifting Dismissed Prior to Arraignment

    Our client owns a chain of fitness centers throughout Massachusetts and other parts of the Northeast. For months he had been implicated in a larceny scheme where items would be purchased at one store, the tags replaced and the items later returned to another store at a more significant price. Videotape from the stores confirmed our client's identity and his involvement in this scheme. Store investigators determined that the total amount of the loss exceeded $14,000. The man was charged with aggravated shoplifting under G.L. c. 266 section 30C. Attorney Neyman was able to show the district attorney the flaws in its case prior to arraignment. Consequently, it was agreed that our client's case would be dismissed prior to arraignment. 

    Read More in Theft Crimes

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