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What is Shoplifting? Definition and Penalties


People often do not think much of taking a candy bar or a tube of lipstick from a store without paying for it, but the cost of these items adds up. This is a crime called shoplifting, and it’s a huge problem for business owners. Shoplifting costs the retail industry $45 billion a year. That’s just in the United States.

Shoplifting is a type of theft that occurs in stores and other businesses. The law defines shoplifting as intending to deprive the owner of property and concealing or using the property in a way that will likely cause the owner to be deprived of said property.

Some states have laws that specifically address shoplifting, while others, like Maryland, generalize it under theft. Read on to learn more about shoplifting and the penalties involved.

Shoplifting Penalties 

The penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the stolen property. For property under $100, the crime is a misdemeanor, with penalties including a $500 fine and up to 90 days in prison. When the value of the property is between $100 and $1,000, the crime is still a misdemeanor. The possible penalties are a $500 fine and up to 18 months in prison.

When the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000, shoplifting becomes a felony. When the value is between $1,000 and $10,000, the penalties include a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison. For stolen property valued between $10,000 and $100,000, the possible punishment is a $15,000 fine and 15 years in prison. When the value is over $100,000, a person can face $25,000 in fines and 25 years in prison. 

Possible Defenses to Shoplifting 

Just because a person is accused of shoplifting does not necessarily mean that they did the crime. Shoplifting involves two main elements: intent and someone else’s property. Therefore, there are several defenses that a lawyer can use to help reduce or eliminate shoplifting charges altogether.

One possible defense is mistaken ownership. A business owner might see that a female customer is holding a purse that looks like one sold in the store. However, this does not mean that the woman stole the purse. Maybe she bought it in the store or elsewhere.

Another defense is lack of intent. If a person accidentally forgot to pay for something, but then later noticed the error and either returned the item or paid for it, then it could not be considered shoplifting. She did not intend to steal the item.

Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Today 

While shoplifting may not seem serious, it will still appear on your criminal record, where it can be seen by employers, landlords and others who view your record.

If you are facing shoplifting or other theft charges, it is important to understand your legal rights.  The aggressive Columbia theft lawyers at The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. can provide you with a solid defense. Fill out the online form or call (410) 774-5987 to schedule a free consultation. We have two offices in Maryland to serve you.


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