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What Are Shoplifting Charges?

In most places, the theft must be intentional for it to be considered shoplifting.
Shoplifting usually means someone has stolen from a retail business.
Jail time is one possible consequence for shoplifting.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2014
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Shoplifting is a crime in which a person steals something from a retail business. When a person is arrested for committing this type of crime, he may face shoplifting charges in court. Essentially, this means he is formally accused of the crime and may face the penalties allowable in his jurisdiction, such as probation or jail, if he is convicted of it. In many cases, sentences are light for first-time offenders and fines may be low as well. A judge may sometimes give a repeat offender a harsher penalty, however.

The laws regarding shoplifting charges may vary from place to place. Typically, however, shoplifting means a person steals something from a retail business. In many places, the theft must be intentional in order to be considered shoplifting. For example, if a person stuffs a pair of socks in his pocket and leaves a store without paying, he may face charges for shoplifting. The same may hold true for a person who tries on clothing in a dressing room, discards the clothes that belong to him, and then leaves the store wearing the new clothing.

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An individual may shoplift just about any type of item. For example, a person may face shoplifting charges if he steals a telephone, tool set, toy, or candy bar from a retail establishment. In many places, however, laws consider retail theft below a certain amount, such as $500 US Dollars (USD), as shoplifting. If an individual steals property that is valued at more than $500 USD from a retail establishment, he may be charged with a different type of theft in some jurisdictions.

Interestingly, a person may face charges for shoplifting even if he fails to steal from a retail business. For example, an individual may place cologne in his pocket and attempt to leave a store without paying for it. If someone notices the theft before he can get away, he may still face shoplifting charges in some jurisdictions.

A shoplifting charge does not mean a person is guilty of shoplifting. In most places, it simply means the person has been formally accused of committing the crime. Usually, a person has an opportunity to defend against shoplifting charges in court and possibly demonstrate that he is not guilty. If he is convicted of shoplifting, however, there is a range of penalties he could face. For example, he may be sentenced to probation or ordered to pay a fine. In some cases, a person convicted of shoplifting charges may even receive a jail sentence.

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anon281132
Post 3

This is crap. Fines for shoplifting is a new way of making money. If I had the power I would drop an atom bomb on countries that make rules and regulations that don't make any sense.

rugbygirl
Post 2

@EdRick - I think it's pretty common for shoplifting to be treated as petty theft. Because of that, shoplifting consequences can vary widely. Years ago, I had an aunt who was a kleptomaniac (someone who compulsively steals things). It was a pretty small town and everyone knew her. No one pressed charges, but some of the stores banned her for life and would escort her to the door. Other places would just wait for my mom to come pay for whatever she took.

But you can also face jail time for shoplifting. A lot depends on how the store wants to handle it.

EdRick
Post 1

My state doesn't have a law for shoplifting--it's just considered petty theft. But I think it's still handled differently depending on whether it's a teenager who thinks it's a joke (hint: it's not) to take something for his or her own use or a shoplifting ring that is organized to lift high-value goods and resell them.

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