Crimes are classified in two major categories: misdemeanors and felonies. In many states, these two categories are broken down further into first degree misdemeanor, second degree felony, and so on.
Minnesota classifies charges a little bit differently than many of our neighbors. There are no felony “degrees,” so sentencing will depend upon the specific charge.
Shoplifting may not seem like the most serious crime in the book, but in some situations it can be charged as a felony. In fact, it actually doesn’t take much in Minnesota for retail theft to reach felony status and be subject to felony sentencing.
Felony Retail Theft Charges in Minnesota
Retail theft charges depend on two factors: the value of the goods that were allegedly stolen, and the offender’s criminal history. Because of this, charges range from a misdemeanor to a felony.
While both types of charges can lead to serious consequences, felonies are decidedly worse. Not only are you more likely to spend time in prison and face higher fines, your rights will also be reduced in other ways. For examples, felons on probation do not have the right to vote, and they do not have the right to possess a firearm. Moreover, felony records may also affect an individual’s ability to get a job or secure a lease.
Let’s look at where felony charges for retail theft start based on these two factors:
Past Criminal History. Having a shoplifting conviction on your record (even if you only stole something incredibly small) can come back to bite you if you are charged with retail theft for a second or third time.
If you shoplift property valued between $500 and $1,000 and you have a clean criminal record, you will only be charged with a gross misdemeanor. However, if you steal the exact same thing and were convicted in the past five years on similar charges, that misdemeanor turns into a felony.
Value of Property Shoplifted. Once you have stolen enough merchandise, your criminal history will not matter. Stealing items valued at over $1,000 warrants felony charges in Minnesota.
Both felony charges mentioned above can lead to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines if you are convicted. It doesn’t stop there, either. The charges only get more serious as more property is stolen.
If, for example, the goods stolen are valued between $5,000 and $35,000, you will face up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. These penalties are also given to offenders who have been convicted of stealing explosives or controlled substances (except marijuana).
Stealing over $35,000 may result in up to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. These penalties are also given to offenders who have been convicted of stealing a firearm, regardless of the firearm’s value.
It may not seem possible to steal $5,000 worth of merchandise – can you fit that much stuff into your pocket or purse? However, the value of items can add up fast. If you’re stealing from a high-priced jewelry or electronics store, it may only take one or two items before you risk felony charges.
Even if you steal less expensive merchandise, it doesn’t take as long as you might think to take more than $5,000. Hit a Walmart a few times and you’re likely already close to the mark. Yes, that’s right – if you steal 20 video games from the same electronics store on different trips there, chances are good that you will face charges that consolidate all of those thefts together. So even if you only stole $50 each time, the grand total will be far higher – and your charges will reflect this.
The Urge to Steal and Other Ways to Fight Back
This is particularly problematic for people who have trouble fighting their urge to steal. In some, this urge may represent a legitimate impulse disorder called
Individuals with kleptomania have an uncontrollable urge to steal, and can only satisfy that urge through means like shoplifting or theft. Kleptomania is linked to disorders like depression, and can be used in your defense.
Of course, you can’t claim kleptomania without evidence, but with expert witnesses and testimony from a licensed professional, you could use kleptomania as a way to claim that you need rehabilitation rather than punishment. Making an attempt to seek rehabilitation before your trial will also help to mitigate your sentence, and may serve to get your charges dropped altogether.
Other defenses for theft charges include:
- Lack of intent
- Lack of proof
- Wrong person
Want more information about fighting retail theft charges? Talk to a Minnesota theft crimes lawyer.
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).