Taking any property that does not belong to you is always addressed seriously in Virginia. As shoplifting is a form of theft (or larceny), the consequences could be severe upon a conviction.
Those who believe that shoplifting does not lead to harsh penalties often let chance take the lead in their case. Such an approach is unwise for several reasons, not the least of which is the very real possibility of incarceration if convicted.
How do prosecutors establish shoplifting?
Your case must include at least one of several elements for a prosecutor to seek a conviction on shoplifting charges.
- The transferring of store merchandise from one container to another
- The willful concealing or taking of any items or merchandise from any store
- The altering of tags or other price markings on the merchandise in any store
If you counsel others in shoplifting or assist them, you are not immune from theft charges.
How is shoplifting punished?
It depends on the value of the involved property. If it has a value of $199 or less, it is petty larceny, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of incarceration. If the stolen property has a value of $200 or more, it is grand larceny, a felony punishable by a one-to-20-year prison term.
Further, the store owner may sue you for civil damages. If the merchant prevails, a judge may order you to pay several times the retail cost of the property.
If you wish to obtain the best possible outcome in your shoplifting case, do two things. Learn as much as possible about the specific charge against you and seek legal guidance. These steps prepare you to build a solid defense and possibly avoid the harshest consequences.