Facing shoplifting charges in the state of Missouri can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially. Potential jail time, fines, court costs, and lawyer fees can pile up, leading to high levels of stress and exhaustion.
If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, you need to fully understand the charges. Reach out to me in St. Louis for help navigating the Missouri criminal justice system. Set up a simple one-on-one consultation with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What is Shoplifting?
Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the state of Missouri doesn’t technically have shoplifting laws on the record. Instead, shoplifting is prosecuted under the state’s stealing laws, which carry penalties that range from a day in jail and a $1,000 fine to ten years behind bars on top of $10,000 in fines.
Missouri specifically defines four classes of actions that constitute stealing or shoplifting in the state. These classes include:
- Refusing or failing to pay for goods, property, or services
- Paying for goods, property, or services with a bad check
- Leaving the premises with the intention of avoiding payment for goods, property, or services
- Defrauding or cheating businesses using altered price tags
If you’ve been accused of any of the actions listed above, you could be facing serious legal penalties. It’s important to understand shoplifting charge classifications, review Missouri’s punishments for stealing, and discover common defenses against shoplifting charges in Missouri.
Classification of Charges in Missouri
The classification of your shoplifting charge, and by extension, legal penalties you may face, depends on the value of items stolen. Depending on the value of goods or services allegedly stolen, your shoplifting charge could be classified as a:
- Class D Misdemeanor- If the value of the items you have been accused of stealing is less than $150, you may be charged with a class D misdemeanor.
- Class A Misdemeanor – If the items you’ve been accused of shoplifting are worth more than $150 but less than $750, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. It’s important to note that stealing certain prohibited items, like firearms or contraband, may elevate your charge classification even if the total value remains below $750.
- Class E Felony – Any individual charged with their third misdemeanor theft or stealing offense or if the alleged theft was of a catalytic converter, the individual may be charged with a Class E felony.
- Class D Felony- If the value of goods or services taken is more than $750 but less than $25,000 you could be facing a class D felony.
- Class C Felony – Class C felony theft occurs when the value of the allegedly stolen goods or services is more than $25,000.
The penalties you may face after being charged with stealing will be dictated by the value of the allegedly shoplifted goods. A Class D misdemeanor shoplifting charge carries potential penalties that range up to $500 in fines. If the value of your goods or a prior record of theft pushes your charges to the felony level, you could be facing years behind bars in addition to much greater fines.
Common Defenses to Shoplifting Charges
Most shoplifting cases rely on convincing the court of one of three commonly accepted mitigating circumstances. These defenses might include:
- Lack of Intent – You removed the property without paying by mistake and without any intention of stealing. This defense may help your shoplifting case. If your criminal defense attorney can convince the court that you removed the item in question by mistake, like leaving a box in the bottom of your shopping cart, your case might be dismissed.
- Right to Property – If you genuinely believed you had a right to the goods or services you’ve been accused of stealing, you may be able to win your case. A “claim of right” negates criminal intent in shoplifting cases, which is a crucial prerequisite for winning a conviction.
- Disputed Value – If disputing the act of stealing isn’t viable, a skilled criminal defense attorney may help their client dispute the claimed value of the goods or services. This can have a significant impact on your case if done successfully. Simply reducing the value of goods from $750 to $500 may reduce your charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Get Strong & Reliable Representation Today
Facing shoplifting or stealing charges in St. Louis or the surrounding areas can upend your entire life. Don’t risk a potential conviction on your record, years of imprisonment, and thousands of dollars in fines by entering into the legal process without an experienced and dedicated legal partner. I have nearly 20 years of experience working as a public defender and criminal defense attorney and am prepared to devote my time, skills, and resources to defending your shoplifting charge. I’m proud to serve my neighbors in St. Louis, Missouri, and the extended community found in St. Charles, St. Louis County, St. Clair County, Illinois and Madison County, Illinois.