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.
If you get caught shoplifting items worth under $500 in Missouri, the potential punishment is 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you hire an experienced attorney to represent you, it is very likely that your shoplifting charge will be dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.”
Will You Go to Jail For Shoplifting in Missouri?
As noted above, the judge has the power to send you to jail for up to 1 year for misdemeanor stealing (under $500). However, if you have no prior convictions for stealing, theft, petty larceny, or shoplifting and you have an attorney representing you, there is very little chance you will go to jail.
How Can an Attorney Help With Your Shoplifting Case?
In most Missouri municipal courts, an experienced attorney can negotiate a plea bargain deal with the Prosecuting Attorney so that a misdemeanor shoplifting charge is either:
- Dismissed completely,
- Reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” or
- Dismissed after a period of probation
In a typical shoplifting case in a Missouri municipal court in which the defendant has hired an attorney to work out a deal with the Prosecutor, the defendant will very likely be required to do one or all of the following:
- Pay a fine
- Pay court costs
- Complete the “Theft Offender” class
- Do a few hours of community service
- Serve a period of 1 to 2 years on probation
PLEASE NOTE: In some courts in Missouri, the Prosecutor will not dismiss or reduce shoplifting charges, even if the defendant has no prior convictions.
How Much Are the Fines & Court Costs You Pay to the Court For a Shoplifting Case?
The amount of the fine you will pay for shoplifting could be anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on which court your case is in, your criminal history, and other details of your case. The amount of the court costs vary by court and can range from $25 to $65.
The “Theft Offender” class that the court will require a shoplifter to attend can be completed in one day and usually costs around $50 to $75.
The community service hours can usually be completed at any non-profit charitable organization, and the court usually gives defendants 2-3 months to complete the hours. The number of community service hours usually range from 10 to 25 hours, depending on the court and the details of your case.
Probation periods range from 6 months to 2 years, and can be either court-supervised or unsupervised “bench” probation.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney For Your Shoplifting Case?
Most criminal defense attorneys charge a one-time flat-fee price to represent a defendant charged with misdemeanor (under $500) shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny. The amount the attorney charges depends on the following:
- Which court is your case being prosecuted in? (Court name & address are listed on your ticket or summons.)
- Do you have any prior convictions on your criminal record?
- How old are you?
- What did you steal?
- What was the value of the items you stole?
- Were the items you stole returned to the store undamaged?
- Were you polite and respectful to the police officer?
What Will Happen If You Plead Guilty to Shoplifting With No Attorney Representing You?
Most attorneys advise defendants to not go to court without a lawyer or plead guilty to a charge of shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny in Missouri.
It will cost you less money up front if you plead guilty to shoplifting without having an attorney representing you. But in the long run it will cost you much more because having a shoplifting conviction on your permanent criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or obtaining a loan.
For more information about fighting a shoplifting/stealing charge in Missouri, read my previous blog post “What is the Punishment for Shoplifting/Stealing 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.
Call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers today at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation if you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny in Missouri.
You Will Need to Hire an Attorney if You Have Been Charged with Stealing
If you have been charged with stealing, theft, shoplifting, or petty larceny, you will need an attorney to represent you so you don’t end up with a conviction for stealing on your permanent criminal record.
Defendants who try to represent themselves in court have to fight against both the prosecutor and the judge, who do not have the best interests of the defendant at heart.
Your Attorney Can Get Stealing/Shoplifting Charges Dismissed or Reduced to a Lesser Offense
The most likely outcome in most misdemeanor shoplifting/stealing cases is that your attorney will get the charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” In many cases, the defendant is required to pay a fine and court costs but does not have to appear in court at all.
Some courts require shoplifting defendants to perform a few hours of community service or take a “theft offender” class before the court will agree to dismiss the stealing charge. Other courts are more strict and will dismiss a stealing charge only after the defendant has successfully completed a period of 1 to 2 years of probation.
The outcome of each case depends on details such as:
- Defendant’s criminal history.
- Defendant’s age.
- The court in which the case is being prosecuted.
- Value & type of items stolen.
- Your attorney’s skill & experience defending shoplifting cases.
Don’t Plead Guilty to Stealing
If you plead guilty or are convicted of shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny, the conviction will show up on your permanent criminal record.
A conviction for stealing will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan from a bank, and obtaining federal student loans for college.
If you plead guilty to stealing, the conviction will stay on your criminal record forever and can not be expunged (removed).
The Penalty for Shoplifting Under $500 in Missouri is 1 Year in Jail and a $1,000 Fine
In Missouri courts, shoplifters can be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine for stealing items valued at under $500. Stealing items valued at $500 or more is a felony, which is a much more serious crime.
Click here to read my previous blog post about penalties for shoplifting in Missouri.
What Is a Shoplifting Civil Demand and Should You Pay It?
After being caught shoplifting, you will receive a “Civil Demand” letter in the mail from the store. Civil demand letters typically state that the shoplifter must pay $250 to pay for the store’s expenses resulting from the shoplifting incident.
Most experienced criminal defense lawyers tell their clients not to pay the store’s civil demand.
Stores Can Sue Shoplifters & Send Civil Demand Letters
It is legal in Missouri for stores to sue shoplifters for up to $250, but you do not owe the store a single penny unless the store does the following:
1. Files a lawsuit against you in civil court,
2. Properly serves you with the lawsuit paperwork, and
3. Wins a judgment against you in court.
Even if a store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a money judgment against you, they can not collect on the judgment unless they know your bank account number or the name of your employer. Without this information, the store can’t garnish your paycheck or your bank account.
Most stores do not sue shoplifters because the cost of suing far exceeds the amount they will win in court, and also because collection of the judgment is very difficult.
Please Note: Paying the civil demand will not prevent the store from also filing a criminal charge against you for shoplifting if they have not already done so. Refusing to pay the civil demand will have no effect on the separate criminal case against you.
If you are facing criminal charges of shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny in Missouri, call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 to discuss your case and get a price quote for legal representation.
Call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers today at (314) 724-5059 about your Missouri shoplifting case.
Hire an Attorney if You Want to Avoid a Shoplifting Conviction
In most cases, an experienced attorney can get your Missouri shoplifting charge dismissed completely or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” with no court appearance required.
The outcome of your case depends on the following:
- Do you have prior convictions for stealing, theft, or shoplifting?
- How old are you?
- Were you cooperative, or did you try to run away from the security guard or police?
- Does your attorney have experience defending shoplifting cases?
- Which court is your case being prosecuted in?
- What type of items did you steal? (for example: bottle of alcohol, food items, baby clothes, etc.)
Don’t Plead Guilty to Shoplifting
Some people think shoplifting is not a real crime. They don’t realize that a conviction for shoplifting, stealing, or petty theft will show up on their criminal background. Once you plead guilty to stealing, that conviction can never be expunged (removed) from your criminal record.
What Happens if You Plead Guilty to Shoplifting/Stealing/Petty Theft?
If you plead guilty or are convicted of shoplifting, stealing, or petty theft, the conviction will go on your permanent criminal record and will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan from a bank, and obtaining federal student loans.
The Maximum Penalty for Misdemeanor Stealing in Missouri is 1 Year in Jail and a $1,000 Fine
In Missouri, a shoplifter can be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each misdemeanor charge of stealing items valued at under $500. Stealing items valued at $500 or more is a felony and is a much more serious crime.
For more information, click here to read my previous blog post about penalties for shoplifting in Missouri.
Should You Pay the Store’s $250 Civil Demand?
Most stores send a “Civil Demand” letter to a shoplifter, demanding that the shoplifter pay $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses related to the theft.
In some situations, the store’s security guards or “Loss Prevention” personnel demand that the shoplifter pay the $250 immediately, before they leave the store. Security guards and store personnel can be very threatening and will lie to the shoplifter, telling them they can’t leave unless they pay immediately. They might refuse to allow the suspected shoplifter to call a family member or attorney, or they might use other tactics intended to intimidate, such as refusing to allow the shoplifter to use the bathroom while waiting several hours until the police arrive.
A common scheme is for the store’s security guard to tell a shoplifter that the civil demand is $250 today, but if you don’t pay immediately, the amount will increase to $500 tomorrow. This is a lie and is basically just a shakedown by the store.
Most Stores Don’t Sue Shoplifters
Missouri law does allow stores to sue shoplifters for up to $250. However, you don’t owe the store anything unless the store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a judgment against you.
Stores rarely sue shoplifters because the expense involved in suing is much more than the store’s actual damages. Most experienced attorneys advise their clients to ignore a store’s “civil demand.” But if you are being detained in a store and accused of shoplifting, you will be tempted to pay the civil demand in the hopes that the store will release you and not call the police.
Please Note: Paying the $250 civil demand to the store does not ensure that the store will not call the police and file criminal charges against you.
What Happens if a Store Sues a Shoplifter?
If the store actually sues a shoplifter, the store can collect on its judgment by garnishing the defendant’s paycheck or bank account. The store can recover actual damages, a penalty of up to $250, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees. The store can’t garnish your paycheck or bank account unless it knows where you work or has your bank account number.
As noted previously, paying the $250 “civil demand” to the store has no effect on the outcome of your criminal shoplifting case.
Shoplifters Can Sue Stores for False Imprisonment, Assault, and Battery
Security guards and other store personnel can legally use “reasonable force” necessary to detain a suspected shoplifter “in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time” while the merchant determines whether the person has stolen any items from the store and to allow time for the police to arrive.
However, if the detention is too long or the force used is unreasonable, the store risks being sued by the shoplifter for assault, battery, and false imprisonment.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, petty theft, or larceny in Missouri, call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation and get a price quote for legal representation.