Shoplifting is often regarded as a minor crime with few repercussions. It’s seen as something that teens do and grow out of, and most view it as something that can be solved by returning stolen merchandise to a store and apologizing.
However, under Minnesota law, thefts are considered a serious offense that can lead to hefty fines and possible jail time. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting within the last five years.
Regardless of why you or your loved one has been charged with shoplifting, conviction can result in numerous criminal penalties, along with the risk of being sued by the merchant in civil court. In addition to acquiring an experienced Minnesota retail theft attorney as quickly as possible, it’s important to understand shoplifting laws and penalties.
What Constitutes Retail Theft
When most people think about shoplifting, they imagine someone leaving a store without paying for something. But while that certainly counts, there are a number of different actions that someone could potentially engage in that qualify as retail theft. These include:
- Taking property without consent.
- Concealing property without consent.
- Using false representation to obtain goods.
- Switching price tags to pay less for a product.
- Altering packaging to pay less for a product.
Minnesota Shoplifting Penalties
Charges for shoplifting typically depend on the items stolen and their value. Low value items, such as a pack of gum, costume jewelry, or a small electronic like a flash drive are generally considered “petty theft” and are usually only punishable with a fine. But for more valuable items, truly serious charges and penalties can follow. Here are a few of the potential penalties you may face if caught shoplifting in Minnesota.
- Value under $500: Up to $1,000 in fines and/or 90 days in jail
- Value between $500 and $1,000: Up to $10,000 in fines and/or five years in prison
- Value between $5,000 and $35,000: Up to $20,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in prison
- Value over $35,000: Up to $100,000 in fines and/or up to 20 years in prison
Fighting a Shoplifting Charge
There are several legal defenses that should be considered when fighting a retail theft charge, such as whether or not it can be proven that you were intentionally attempting to steal, and how the situation was handled by security personnel. With the help of a skilled defense attorney, you can explore possible defenses to reduce or even dismiss charges.
A shoplifting conviction can result in some long-term consequences, including a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. Because of this, offenders may find it difficult to find a job after being charged, as employers are able to see the conviction when completing a background check. The conviction may also pop up when applying for college or housing, or attempting to obtain a professional license.
Everyone makes mistakes. But that doesn’t mean that your life has to be ruined. To ensure that your rights are protected, it’s important to have a smart criminal attorney with a successful track record looking out for your best interests. Contact a criminal defense attorney in your area today to learn what steps you can take to fight for your future and ensure a positive outcome.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).