Hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to avoid having a shoplifting conviction on your criminal record.
Don’t Plead Guilty to Shoplifting
If you go to court on your own without an attorney and plead guilty to shoplifting, you will end up with a conviction for stealing that will show up on your permanent criminal record.
Having a stealing conviction on your criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a bank loan, or getting federal student aid for college.
Why You Should Hire An Attorney To Help With Your Stealing Charge
An experienced attorney who has represented a lot of Missouri defendants charged with stealing can give you the best estimate of the most likely outcome of your case.
In some cases, it may be in your best interest to plead not guilty and take your case to trial, while in other situations, your best option may be to have your attorney negotiate a plea bargain deal with the Prosecutor.
Discuss your case with an experienced attorney before deciding what to do. Most criminal defense attorneys will offer a free consultation and give you an estimate of the outcome of your case, along with a flat-fee price quote for how much they will charge to represent you.
Here are some possible outcomes for defendants who are represented by an experienced shoplifting attorney for their Missouri misdemeanor shoplifting charge:
- The charge is dismissed after defendant completes the “Theft Offender” class and pays court costs, or
- The charge is dismissed after defendant completes a few hours of community service and pays court costs, or
- The charge is reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” after defendant pays a fine and court costs, or
- The charge is dismissed after defendant completes a period of probation and pays court costs but is not required to pay a fine
What Is The Punishment for Shoplifting or Stealing Under $500 in Missouri?
The maximum sentence for shoplifting in Missouri is 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Misdemeanor shoplifting is sometimes charged as “Stealing Under $500,” “Petty Larceny,” or “Petty Theft.”
The Prosecutor may charge you with “Misdemeanor Stealing” for stealing items valued under $500.
The Prosecutor may charge you with “Felony Stealing” for stealing items valued at $500 or more.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have are charged with misdemeanor stealing for the 4th time within 10 years, the Prosecuting Attorney must charge you with Felony Stealing, which is a much more serious charge than misdemeanor stealing.
Jail Time Is a Possibility for Misdemeanor Shoplifting in Missouri
As noted above, the maximum penalty in Missouri for misdemeanor shoplifting is 1 year in jail. However, a 1-year jail sentence for shoplifting is not likely unless you have multiple prior stealing convictions and you don’t have an experienced attorney representing you.
WARNING: In some Missouri courts, the Prosecutor will not dismiss or reduce shoplifting charges to a lesser offense, even if the defendant has no prior convictions and is represented by an attorney. If your case is in a court in which the Prosecutor does not dismiss or amend shoplifting charges, your attorney will have to negotiate directly with the judge for a reduction in jail time.
No Jail Time for Stealing Under $150
A new law took effect in Missouri on January 1, 2017 stating that the maximum penalty for first-time offenders accused of misdemeanor “Stealing Under $150” is a $500 fine but no jail time.
See my previous blog post “No Jail Time For Stealing Under $150” for more information about this new Missouri shoplifting law.
Should You Pay the “Civil Demand” If You Are Caught Shoplifting?
After being arrested for shoplifting, the store where you were caught stealing will send you a “Civil Demand” letter, stating that you owe the store $250 to reimburse them for their expenses.
Most experienced attorneys advise their clients to refuse to pay the civil demand. Whether or not you pay the civil demand will have no effect on your criminal shoplifting case.
You don’t owe the store anything unless the store sues you and wins a judgment against you in civil court. Most stores don’t sue shoplifters who steal items valued under $500 because a lawsuit costs the store more than the judgment is worth, and because it is time-consuming for the store to collect on a judgment.
See my previous blog post “What To Do If You Are Charged With Shoplifting” for more information about “Civil Demand” letters.
Call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email Andrea at email@example.com for a free consultation about your case. Andrea can give you an estimate of the outcome of your case and a flat-fee price quote for legal representation.
Stealing items worth under $500 is a class A misdemeanor in Missouri. This is sometimes called “Shoplifting,” “Petty Larceny,” “Petty Theft,” or just “Stealing.”
If you plead guilty or are found guilty of shoplifting or stealing under $500 in Missouri, the judge can sentence you to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Stores Can Sue Shoplifters
A store can sue you for the expenses they incurred as a result of your shoplifting.
Missouri law allows stores to sue shoplifters in civil court for restitution and damages. This means the store can sue you to get reimbursement for their costs and expenses, such as the cost for them to employ a security guard, or their expenses for items that get damaged and can not be re-shelved after they catch you shoplifting and retrieve the stolen item.
What Is a Civil Demand & Do I Have To Pay the $250?
After getting caught shoplifting, the store’s lawyer will send you a “civil demand letter.” The civil demand letter will state that you owe the store $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses resulting from your shoplifting.
Most attorneys advise their shoplifting clients to refuse to pay the $250 civil demand. As noted above, there is a Missouri law that allows stores to sue shoplifters but few stores actually do so.
You do not owe the store anything unless the store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a money judgment against you. Then, the store has to somehow collect on the judgment, which is very hard to do unless the store knows your bank account number or where you work.
What Happens If I Plead Guilty to Shoplifting or Stealing?
In Missouri, a judge can sentence you to up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if you plead guilty or are found guilty of misdemeanor stealing (under $500).
Having a conviction for stealing on your criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, and obtaining a loan.
Convictions for stealing are not eligible for expungement (removal) from your criminal record.
Hire a Lawyer To Fight Your Shoplifting/Stealing Charge
To avoid having a conviction for stealing on your permanent criminal record, hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court for your shoplifting/stealing charge.
In most cases, an experienced shoplifting lawyer can get your shoplifting charge dismissed completely or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” The outcome of your case depends on many factors, but it is very likely that you won’t have to appear in court at all if you hire an attorney to represent you.
For more information about fighting a shoplifting/stealing charge in Missouri, read my previous blog post “What Is The Penalty For Shoplifting in Missouri?”
If you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, petty larceny, or petty theft in Missouri, call St. Louis Shoplifting Lawyer Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a price quote for legal representation.