We say shoplifting, you probably picture a young girl standing at a clothing rack, glancing side-to-side, then slipping something small into her bag.
The fact is shoplifting is an offense committed by people from all walks of life. A congressional candidate recently accused of shoplifting 279 items from a Target store, for instance. She was allegedly caught attempting to take the merchandise from a store without paying for it. She now faces felony-level charges.
Carrying away unpaid merchandise is also only one of many acts considered shoplifting in Minnesota. In fact, you don’t need to conceal or carry away any merchandise at all to be charged.
Let’s take a look at the most common acts considered shoplifting in this state, and the criminal consequences you could face if convicted.
Five Common Acts of Minnesota Shoplifting
Shoplifting is considered a theft crime under Minnesota law, but it can involve more than physically taking merchandise from a store without paying.
Any means used to deprive a merchant of an item’s full value can potentially be considered retail theft. This means that acts such as price switching, changing packaging, and concealing an item also constitute shoplifting in Minnesota.
Some shoplifters will actually “pay” for the item they’re shoplifting by ringing up at the register, but find a way to avoid paying the item’s full price. Price switching is one way to do that.
As the name suggests, it happens when a shoplifter exchanges the price tag on the shoplifted item with a less-expensive one.
You didn’t technically steal anything, but the act is still considered shoplifting because you’re attempting to deprive the merchant of the item’s full value.
Similar to price switching, some shoplifters will change an item’s packaging, placing a more valuable item in the packaging of the less valuable one.
At the register, the cashier rings the item up based on the outer package barcode, and you pay the price of the cheaper item.
This is a risky move because store security cameras can catch you switching out packages, and you won’t know until you’re apprehended as you approach the register. Suddenly, you’re facing felony shoplifting charges for a pair of boots.
Concealing an Item
It’s a common misunderstanding among shoplifting that a person must exit the store with unpaid merchandise to be detained for shoplifting.
If you’re caught even concealing an item in your personal effects, this is considered shoplifting in Minnesota.
Leaving a Store Without Paying
When you do successfully exit a store with a lifted item, this is the classic form of a shoplifting offense. The problem with this one is, history has made time for improved security measures. You can’t always see an anti-theft device.
Hidden electronic monitoring devices aren’t always the big, bulky dye tubes of decades past. Miss one and trigger a detector on your way out? Plan on detainment by store security, and charges of shoplifting once the police arrive.
Employee Retail Theft
Many stores face the biggest shoplifting threat not from customers, but from employees. If a store employee attempts to steal merchandise from his or her employer, this is also considered shoplifting.
These are only a handful of the most common Minnesota shoplifting offenses. Check with an experienced Minnesota retail theft attorney if you have questions about specific charges not covered in this post.
Breaking Down the Consequences of Minnesota Shoplifting
Like most theft crimes, Minnesota shoplifting is sentenced and penalized on based on the value of the merchandise allegedly shoplifted. Penalties are enhanced when the crime involves items like firearms or controlled substances.
You can expect the following sentencing and penalties if you’re convicted of Minnesota shoplifting:
Less than $500: Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000
$500-$1,000: Gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $3,000
$500-$1,000 with a prior theft conviction in the past five years: Felony punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000
$1,000-$5,000: Felony punishable up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000
$5,000-$35,000 or explosives or controlled substances of any value: Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000
$35,000+ or firearms of any value: Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $100,000
Shoplifting is a major source of revenue loss for Minnesota retailers. Merchants are therefore putting more effort into catching shoplifters and pressing charges for even very minor shoplifting offenses.
If you find yourself facing shoplifting charges, you have many potential options that could get your charges dropped or reduced. Know your rights, and fight back proactively to beat the charges against you.
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).