If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in MA you might be wondering what penalties you face, and if you even need a lawyer. After all, shoplifting charges are relatively minor, right? Well, not exactly. For starters, the penalties you face are largely dependent on the severity of your charges and prior criminal history; you could be looking at up to two-and-a-half years behind bars. Secondly, any criminal conviction on your record – even shoplifting – can have serious consequences for years into the future.
What is Shoplifting?
Walking into a store, putting an item in your purse, and walking out without paying for it is an obvious example of shoplifting. But shoplifting can take other forms as well. Simply concealing merchandise while in the store can be considered shoplifting. Altering or swapping price tags, or placing merchandise in different containers is also a form of shoplifting. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with shoplifting or any other crime.
If a merchant suspects you of shoplifting, you can be detained at the store for a reasonable amount of time. When law enforcement arrives, you can be arrested without a warrant if the officer(s) have probable cause to do so.
If convicted of shoplifting in MA, you may be facing fines, jail time, and a possible civil suit. Merchants can sue shoplifters to recover damages for stolen goods. Penalties vary based on the value of goods stolen and other factors. If you have been charged with shoplifting, the following penalties may apply to you:
- Goods valued at less than $100: If you have no prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $250.
- Goods valued at up to $100: If you have one prior offense, you will likely face a fine of up to $500.
- Goods valued at up to $100: If you have two prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $500, and up to two years in jail.
- Goods valued at $100 or more: A fine of up to $1,000, and up to two-and-a-half years in jail.
In addition to the above criminal penalties, you may face civil damages of up to $500, plus actual damages.
Do I Qualify for a Pretrial Diversion Program?
Maybe you’re innocent. Maybe you did shoplift the item(s) you are charged with shoplifting, but you now realize you made a mistake. In either case, an experienced MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights. Fortunately, MA offers something called a pretrial diversion program for some people who are accused of low-level crimes. If you qualify for a pretrial diversion program, you might have to do things like complete community service and make restitution, but you will not end up with a criminal record. Once you have fulfilled the requirements of the program, the charges will be dropped. A plea bargain may be an option if a diversion program is not. This occurs when a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Continue reading