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What is the Penalty for Shoplifting in Missouri?

Call Missouri shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation about your shoplifting/stealing charge.

Penalties for Shoplifting in Missouri

Stealing (under $500) is a class A misdemeanor in Missouri, for which a judge can sentence you to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In addition to the criminal charges that you may face for stealing, Missouri law allows stores to sue shoplifters in civil court for restitution and damages. You will receive a “civil demand letter” in the mail from the store’s attorney claiming that you owe the store $250.

How Can an Attorney Help If You Are Charged With Stealing or Shoplifting?

In many cases, an attorney can get a misdemeanor shoplifting charge reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” if you have no prior convictions. Depending on the court in which you are prosecuted, it’s possible that all you will have to do is pay a fine and court costs, and you won’t have to appear in court.

Some courts are not so lenient with shoplifters. In those courts, the best option available to you will be an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) and probation. If you receive an SIS, no conviction will be entered on your permanent criminal record if you successfully complete your period of probation without any further convictions.

In addition, the court may require you to attend a “Theft Offenders” class and perform a few hours of community service. You may also be banned from entering all stores in the chain of stores that you stole from.

What Does the Judge Consider When Sentencing a Shoplifter in Missouri?

The sentence you receive for stealing in Missouri will depend on the following:

  • What did you steal? (For example, if you stole a bottle of alcohol, the court may order you to attend an alcohol education program. If you stole ingredients to make meth, then it’s a felony and you could be sentenced to two to seven years in prison.)
  • What was the price of the item that you stole?
  • Did you immediately return the undamaged item to the store?
  • Did you attempt to run away from the store’s security guard?
  • How old are you?
  • In which county is your case being prosecuted? (In some counties in Missouri, defendants who are not represented by an attorney, and who plead guilty to shoplifting, face a mandatory sentence of 2 days in jail.)
  • Do you have prior convictions for theft, stealing, shoplifting, or larceny?

Convictions for Stealing Stay on Your Criminal Record Forever

If you plead guilty to shoplifting, stealing, theft, or larceny, the conviction will remain on your criminal record forever, and you will not be able to get it expunged (removed). Having a conviction for stealing can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a loan, or being accepted into a college or graduate school.

Store Owners or Employees Can Detain a Suspected Shoplifter 

Missouri law also allows store owners or employees to detain a suspected shoplifter for a “reasonable” period of time, in a “reasonable manner” if the store employee has reasonable grounds or probable cause to believe that the person has stolen, or is in the process of stealing merchandise or cash from the store.

If the security guard detains a shoplifter for more than a reasonable period of time before calling the police or releasing the shoplifter, then the store is at risk of being charged with false imprisonment.

When the police officer issues a ticket for shoplifting, the charge can be described as any one of the following:

  • Shoplifting
  • Stealing
  • Stealing Under $500
  • Petty Larceny
  • Theft
  • Theft of Services

You will be given a court date, at which you can choose to appear on your own, or you can hire an attorney to represent you.

Statute of Limitations for Shoplifting in Missouri

The statute of limitations in Missouri for shoplifting is one year for a misdemeanor or three years for a felony. It’s considered a misdemeanor if the value of the item that was stolen is less than $500.

The time period begins when the offense occurs. This means the prosecuting attorney has one year from the date of the alleged shoplifting incident to file charges against a person for a misdemeanor shoplifting charge, or three years for a felony shoplifting charge.

What If the Store Doesn’t Press Criminal Charges?

In some cases, the store manager will not call the police or press criminal charges. Instead, the store will hire an attorney to send the accused shoplifter a “civil demand letter,” demanding that they pay an amount of $100 to $250 to reimburse the store for damages.

Keep in mind that the store can press criminal charges and also sue for civil damages.

Missouri Law Allows Stores to Sue Shoplifters  

It is legal for a store to send a civil demand letter to a shoplifter. Missouri (and every other state in the U.S.) has a law that allows retail stores to sue shoplifters to recover damages resulting from shoplifting.

If a store is successful in its lawsuit and wins a judgment against a shoplifter, the shoplifter can be forced to return the stolen merchandise or pay for the item that was stolen or damaged. This law also allows the store to recover an amount of $100 to $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses, such as the cost of hiring a security guard.

Instead of actually filing a civil lawsuit in court against the shoplifter, most stores usually hire a debt collection law firm to send a civil demand letter to the accused shoplifter and make repeated threatening phone calls.

Don’t Pay the “Civil Demand” for Shoplifting

If you have been accused of shoplifting and you receive a civil demand letter from a law firm demanding money, don’t pay it. Many accused shoplifters pay because they don’t know any better. Stores often engage in this type of behavior even if the item is recovered undamaged and they don’t press criminal charges against the shoplifter.

Stores Almost Never Sue Shoplifters 

If you refuse to pay in response to the civil demand letter, the store can sue you in court, and if they win a judgment against you, they can garnish your wages to force you to pay. But until the store sues you and wins, you don’t owe them anything.

The cost of hiring an attorney to sue a shoplifter far exceeds the amount of loss to the store. Therefore, it is extremely rare that a store will spend the money to hire an attorney to sue a shoplifter. Often, the item that was stolen is worth a very small amount (a $10 pair of sunglasses from Walmart, for example) and the shoplifter has already given the item back to the store, so the store’s damages are minimal.

Click on this link to read a recent Wall Street Journal article about how often stores send civil demand letters to shoplifters demanding money but rarely file a lawsuit against a shoplifter.

Paying the “Civil Demand” Has No Effect on the Criminal Case 

As discussed above, a merchant can press criminal charges against you for stealing and also file a civil lawsuit against you to make you reimburse them for their expenses.

Many people pay the civil demand, thinking that this will resolve their case, but it doesn’t. Whether you pay the civil demand or not will have no effect on your criminal case. The judge in the criminal case will not give you a better “deal” because you paid the civil demand, and you will still have to appear in court or hire an attorney to represent you. The amount of the fine that you will have to pay to the court will not be decreased by the amount of the civil demand that you already paid.

Don’t Return to Store After Shoplifting Conviction

After being convicted of shoplifting, the store that you stole from may prohibit you from returning to their store (or any other store in their entire chain of stores) in the future. You can be charged with trespassing if the store’s security guard catches you in any one of their stores after you have been banned from the premises.


38 Comments

  1. lynn on January 24, 2013 at 12:07 am

    if a person has concealed an item but has not left the building is that still considered shoplifting?
    can they win a criminal case?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on January 24, 2013 at 12:41 am

      I don’t believe you would win that case. In my opinion, this would be considered shoplifting because the person took possession of merchandise without paying for it, with apparent intent to convert the merchandise to his own use. For more information, read RSMo 570.087.2 which is the Missouri statute on stealing.

  2. Grace on June 20, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I received one of these letters asking for 408.49 from a law firm. It also states they represent the store. The merchandise was alcohol and it was 9.99 I never left the store and was detained as the guard and manager took my info, took a picture and released me. At the bottom of the letter there is a statement that says: Important notice please read
    Unless you notify us in 30 days after receipt of this letter that the validity of this debt, or any portion of it, is disputed, we will assumethat the debt is valid. If you do notify us of a dispute, we will obtain verification of the debt and mail it to you. Also, upon your written request within 30 days, we will provide you with the name and address of the original creditro if different from the current creditor. This communication is an attempt to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for this purpose.
    I called this law firm to speak with someone and they tranferred me to a voice mail. I then looked up this statute. My question is should I communicate with this law firm and should I pay this fine?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      No, you should not respond to the law firm letter and you should not pay the amount they are demanding. The law firm may continue to contact you, but they will eventually stop. I have never heard of a store that actually follows through on their threat to sue a shoplifter because their costs to sue you are so much higher than the amount of their damages/loss from the shoplifting. There is a law that allows stores to sue shoplifters in court (that would be a civil case, not a criminal case) and recover up to $250 (if this is in Missouri) for their expenses. However, at this point, you don’t owe the store anything. The store has to sue you, get you served with the lawsuit paperwork, then the store would have to hire an attorney to go to court and win a judgment against you. Only then would you owe them the $250. At that point, they could recover the money from you by garnishing your paycheck if they know where you work, or by garnishing your bank account if they know where you bank.

  3. Joe on September 10, 2013 at 10:08 am

    My son was wth his girl she stole found nothin onhim he went to jail is this stealing

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on September 10, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Yes, it’s considered stealing. It is very common for police to issue tickets for stealing to both people, even though only 1 person actually stole something. The police (and the store owners) see it as both people conspiring together to steal. They punish both people because they figure there’s no way your son didn’t realize that his friend was stealing, and must have been helping her by keeping watch or helping her conceal items. Your son needs to hire an attorney to represent him. If he has no prior convictions, it’s very likely that I could get the shoplifting charge reduced to “Littering.” He would have to pay a fine and court costs, but he wouldn’t have to go to court.

      If your son pleads guilty and ends up with a conviction for stealing, he will have that conviction on his permanent criminal record forever and it can never be removed. A stealing conviction will prevent him from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting federal student loans, etc.

      Thank you for contacting me, and please feel free to call me on my cell at (314) 724-5059 or email me if you would like a price quote for legal representation of your son.

  4. Adi on November 11, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    I had my shoplifting charge reduced to littering. Am I able to get in expunged?

  5. Al on November 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I was arrested for theft (over $500 less than $25,000), I have never been in any kind of legal trouble and never been arrested until this first time. I am being told that I will more than likely get a SIS and probation and that after I successfully complete my probation that my case will be clsoed to the public (except law enforcement and judges). How long is probation on these type of cases? Will it really be closed to potential employers? Can I shorten the amount of time on probation?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on November 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      If you hired an attorney or you have a public defender representing you for this case, you need to talk to your attorney or public defender about this.

      In general, if a defendant successfully completes probation with no violations, the case will be closed and there will be no conviction on the defendant’s criminal record. However, during the time that you are on probation for your SIS, it is possible for that information to be captured in a data sweep by companies that gather court information and sell it to companies who want to buy criminal background reports on potential employees. Only arrests and convictions are supposed to appear on criminal background reports, but I have had many clients tell me that the record of their SIS and probation showed up on a criminal background check.

      It is possible to go back to court and ask the judge to terminate your probation after you have completed 50% of the total probation period. It’s up to the judge to decide whether to terminate your probation. You can go to court yourself or hire an attorney to handle it for you.

  6. Charles on December 27, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    i was caught for shoflifiting at a walmart in oct of 2015… i am a truck driver and cannot afford to go to jail and have my truck impounded it would be really hard to get back to that city for any kind of probation. what do you think will happen

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on December 28, 2015 at 9:16 am

      You will have to hire a criminal defense attorney who practices in the city or county where your shoplifting case is being prosecuted. Your attorney can probably take care of everything without you having to go to court. It depends on which court your case is in & whether you have prior convictions for stealing, but I believe it’s very likely that your attorney can get your shoplifting charge reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.”

  7. Travis on February 15, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I was detained for stealing from a Walmart at the beginning of the year. I am 17, so in Missouri i’m legally an adult and have a court date that is coming up soon. It was well under 100 dollars, but I wasn’t told to represent myself or anything. What should I do?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on February 15, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Yes, you need to hire an attorney to represent you in court if you want to avoid ending up with a conviction for shoplifting. A shoplifting conviction can not be expunged (removed) later, and it can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting federal student loans for college. The police officer who issued the shoplifting ticket to you is not going to tell you whether or not you should represent yourself, but I highly recommend that you hire a lawyer instead of trying to represent yourself.

      If you don’t have the money to hire a lawyer at this point, go to court on your court date and tell the judge you are trying to hire a lawyer and you want a continuance of the court date. The judge has to give you a 30-day continuance if you show up for court and ask for it. The court wants you to be represented by an attorney if that’s what you want.

      • Travis on February 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

        What about a public defender? I don’t exactly have the money for an attorney and the court date is this week. I just need to know the best way to go about this. I had a lapse of judgment and now im paying for it, but i wasn’t given any information and didn’t know any of this before today when I read all of this.

  8. […] For more information about fighting a shoplifting/stealing charge in Missouri, read my previous blog post “What Is The Penalty For Shoplifting in Missouri?” […]

  9. Sarah k on September 28, 2016 at 3:43 am

    My frind staling afew items from Walmart but she don’t have money to hire attorney what can she do?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on September 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      If your friend has been charged with stealing from Walmart, she needs to hire an attorney to avoid ending up with a conviction for stealing on her criminal record. If her case is in municipal court, she is not entitled to a public defender, so her only options are either represent herself or hire an attorney. She should see if there are any free or low-cost legal aid organizations in her community who might represent her. Otherwise, she can go to court and ask the judge for probation or ask if they offer any type of diversion program.

  10. Mike f on December 20, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Ok so i got caught for stealing 100$ for 2 charges and heads phones they got them the items back and no damage done other then to the box if that. They wrote me they let me leave walmart instead of taking me to jail and walmart didnt ban me, anyways so i called the county about my court date on my ticket i got the officer stated “by their knowledge on their computers im not in the system for any ticket” i called the right county who arrested me and long story short i cant get the ticket i got back how do i go about in finding if i have a court date or not this has never happened before thanks

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on December 20, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      It often takes at least 10 business days for the police officer to file the ticket with the Prosecuting Attorney. Sometimes it takes much longer, depending on which court your case is being prosecuted in. So for the time being, there is no court date and the court has no information about your case. If you hire an attorney to represent you, your attorney will take care of this for you and you won’t have to keep calling the court about it. It depends on your criminal history and also which court your case is in, but in most cases of misdemeanor stealing/shoplifting, an experienced attorney can usually negotiate a plea bargain deal with the Prosecutor to get your stealing charge dismissed or amended to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.”

  11. Adriana R on January 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    I was caught for stealing an item that was under $50, and have a court date coming up soon. The thing is that I have no way of making the court date because I no longer live in the same state and the court says I have to show up for a stealing charge, is there any way an attorney or public defender can represent me? I also have no prior convictions or criminal record of any sort

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on January 10, 2017 at 10:24 pm

      Yes, you can hire an attorney to represent you in court for your shoplifting case. Public defenders do not handle misdemeanors (stealing under $500) in Missouri, so you will have to hire a private attorney. You won’t have to appear in court, and your attorney can probably get your shoplifting charge dismissed or amended to a lesser offense such as “Littering.”

  12. Madison Williams on February 7, 2017 at 12:27 am

    Okay, so my friend stole 2 items under $100, & he is highly concerned about it. What would a bond amount be for this if he does go to jail & what would his penalty most likely be for a first time offense if he’s never been in trouble in his life?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on February 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

      There is no way for me to know how much the bond would be, but I would guess at least $500. The amount of the bond depends on which court the case is being prosecuted in. The potential penalty for misdemeanor stealing in Missouri is 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

      If your friend has been charged with stealing, he needs to hire an experienced attorney to represent him if he wants to avoid jail time and also avoid having a conviction for stealing on his permanent criminal record. A conviction for stealing will prevent him from getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting federal student loans for college.

      Are you saying your friend stole items but has not yet been charged with stealing or the police have not picked him up yet? The Prosecuting Attorney has up to 1 year to file charges against someone for a misdemeanor like stealing. Usually a police officer issues a ticket for stealing to defendant and the ticket has the court name, address, and court date on it. Or the court could send a summons in the mail to the defendant which will tell him the court name, address, and court date. The defendant will need to go to court on his court date, or hire an attorney to go to court for him. An experienced attorney can get a misdemeanor (under $500) stealing charge reduced to a lesser offense such as “Littering” or dismissed after a period of probation. The outcome of the case depends a lot on which court the case is in and the criminal history of the defendant.

      If your friend would like me to give him a price quote for what I would charge to represent him in court, he can call or email me. I will need to know which court his case is in, whether he has any prior convictions or arrests for any crime, his age, and what he stole.

  13. Amy Hahn on April 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Hello I am in gentry county Mo I got caught on camera stealing a 20oz bottle of pop at Casey’s General store in Albany mo!! I was just wondering what you think my outlook will possibly be on this case! Please let me know asap!

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on April 19, 2017 at 11:12 am

      If you received a ticket for shoplifting, you will need to hire an attorney to represent you if you want to avoid having a “stealing” conviction on your criminal record. I usually get my clients’ stealing charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering” but it depends on which court the case is in and whether you have any prior convictions.

      If you have no money to hire an attorney, you can go to court and ask the judge to put you on probation. However, I have no idea if the judge would agree to that. Also, keep in mind that if you apply for a job and your employer runs a criminal background check on you, it will show that you are on probation for stealing, so that’s why most people prefer to get their shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to “Littering.”

      There is a maximum potential penalty of $500 to $1,000 fine and 6 months to 1 year in jail for misdemeanor stealing in Missouri (depending on whether this is in municipal court or circuit court), but if you have an attorney representing you and you have no prior convictions for stealing, it is highly unlikely that you are at risk of being sentenced to any jail time.

      If you are interested, you can text or email a copy of the ticket to me and I’ll see which court it’s in and I’ll give you a price quote for how much I would charge to represent you. Also, please let me know if this is a first offense or if you have any prior arrests or convictions on your record.

  14. Marjorie A on May 15, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I shoplifted a $3 item from hobby lobby in Springfield mo. The manager took me to the back told me she was not filong charges but to never return. She took my DL info and my SSN. She gave me a paper about a civil demand letter I might recover in the mail it would be $200- $400. No cops were ever called and she got the item back. I have shoplifted before years ago and got caught but did my community service and don’t think it’s on my record anyway. When and if i receive this civil demand letter do j just pay it? What will happen if I Don’t?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on May 16, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Experienced attorneys advise their clients to refuse to pay the civil demand. You don’t owe anything to Hobby Lobby unless they sue you in civil court and win a judgment against you. Suing you in civil court costs Hobby Lobby more than the amount they could possibly win in court. For this reason, most stores don’t follow through on their threats to sue. In your situation, you were not criminally charged but Hobby Lobby could decide to call the police later if you refuse to pay the civil demand. The prosecuting attorney has up to 1 year from the date of the incident to decide to file charges. It sounds like you received a suspended imposition of sentence with probation for your previous shoplifting charge, so there should be no conviction on your criminal record, but the prosecuting attorney will be able to see that you were charged and received probation for the previous charge.

  15. jessica on June 12, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I just caught my second stealing charge within a month of the first one I have yet to be to court for the first one yet what consequences in Missouri do they carry for a second misdemeanor charge of stealing theft?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 12, 2017 at 9:40 am

      The consequences for you could be worse (of course) because you have been caught stealing twice in such a short time. You need to hire an attorney to represent you for both charges. Feel free to call or email me and I will give you a price quote for how much I would charge to represent you.

      The Prosecutors in each court will know that you have been charged for both cases, but they generally don’t want to send you to jail unless you have a long criminal history of multiple stealing charges. The outcome depends a lot on which court your cases are being prosecuted in. I have represented people who were charged in the same court several times for stealing, all within the same short period, and I was able to get their charges amended to “Littering” but I can’t accurately estimate the result without know which court your cases are being prosecuted in.

  16. Sunny Anderson on June 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me when my outlook would be I just got a second charge of stealing ticket within a month of each other never been in any kind of trouble before and just went to court on A month ago I pled guilty he didn’t know I needed to seek representation I didn’t even understand any of it until I just looked it up and I’m going to be going to court next month for this other stealing charge both were under $10 was wondering if you could tell me what kind of charges I might be looking out for the second time and any advice on what I should do?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 26, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      You can hire an attorney to withdraw your guilty plea for the 1st stealing charge and possibly get that charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” You will also need to hire an attorney to represent you for your 2nd stealing charge. The prosecutor will see that you just recently pleaded guilty to the same charge of stealing, so it may be more difficult, but not impossible, for your attorney to convince the prosecutor to agree to any kind of plea bargain deal for your 2nd stealing charge. The outcome of your case depends a lot on which court your case is being prosecuted in. Prosecutors in some courts are so strict that they will not offer any kind of plea bargain deal and will insist that you serve 1-2 days in jail, even for stealing under $10, while others are more lenient and will agree to a favorable plea bargain deal, even if it’s your 2nd stealing charge.

  17. Mary smith on June 27, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I got cought stealing from Walmart and the police gave me ticket with court date I stole makeup less than $50 and I returned item from the store under my credit card less than $60 and the police let me go no aressted the charges on the ticket are shoplifting and stealing under can you give me advice what should I do and what is stealing under punishment

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 27, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Stealing under $500 is a misdemeanor. Maximum potential punishment is $1,000 fine and 1 year in jail, but that’s not going to happen if you have an attorney representing you. If you would like me to give you a price quote for legal representation, I will need to know which court your case is being prosecuted in and I will also need to know if you have any prior arrests/charges/convictions for stealing or shoplifting on your criminal record.

  18. Mary smith on June 27, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    And how much do you charge if you handle this case?

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 27, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      I would be happy to give you a price quote for how much I would charge to represent you, but you will need to know which court your case is being prosecuted in (the court name & address are listed on your ticket) and I will also need to know if you have any prior convictions for stealing or shoplifting.

  19. NS on June 28, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Hi,
    I have been caught shoplifting fpr items calculated upto 470$ at a store and the called the cops and later took me to jall.
    They have issued a criminal record for me under stealing and asked me to go to court at a date.

    I want to get an early date and remove all criminal records for me.
    Please help me and let me know what to do.
    Also,
    Let me know if u can represent me at the court?

    I will be leaving Missouri in a month and i need to settle this up quickly.

    I have no prior criminal records or convictions.

    Please help!!

    • Andrea Storey Rogers on June 29, 2017 at 9:14 am

      The outcome of your case depends on your criminal history, the court your case is being prosecuted in, what type of item you stole, the dollar value of the item you stole, whether you were cooperative with police, the specific details found in the police report, and the skill and experience of the attorney who is representing you. In some courts I deal with, the prosecutor is very strict and will refuse to offer any type of plea bargain deal and will require that defendant spend 1 or 2 days in jail for misdemeanor shoplifting. But in other courts that I deal with, the prosecutor is more lenient and will amend the shoplifting charge to “Littering.”

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