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Shoplifting in Virginia: What to know

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Has a friend dared you to take a “five-fingered discount” from a shop? Did your buddy shove a video game under your jacket and tell you to “act cool” as you were walking out of the store? You’d better think twice – because what you do next could have serious consequences.

Shoplifting is often treated like a petty offense or a game, especially by teens, but merchants are very serious about those losses – and Virginia law doesn’t go easy on shoplifters. Here are three things you need to keep in mind:

1. You don’t even have to leave the store to get into trouble

In some states, you have to actually leave the store before you can be charged with shoplifting – but Virginia isn’t one of them. Shoplifting is a type of larceny, and you can be charged for simply willfully concealing an item with the intent of stealing it. For example, that means you can be charged with shoplifting if you drop an item into your bag while you walk around the shop. You can also be charged for switching price tags on an item, even if you haven’t checked out.

2. You can be charged for aiding and abetting someone else who shoplifts

Maybe you goaded your buddy into lifting a couple beers from a convenient mart, or maybe you tried to alert your friend that a manager was looking your way before they got caught. Either way, that’s enough to land you in the same amount of trouble as if you were the one who stole the item since anybody who “counsels, assists, aids or abets another” in shoplifting is considered equally guilty.

3. Your charges will reflect the value of the items you’re accused of stealing

If the items you’re accused of trying to lift are worth less than $1,000, you can be charged with petit larceny, which is a misdemeanor offense. Anything over $1,000, however, and you face grand larceny charges – and that’s a felony. These days, it isn’t hard to get into felony territory.

People are mistakenly accused of shoplifting all the time – so it is important not to panic. If you’re accused of shoplifting, exercise your right to remain silent. You can tell your side of things once you’ve had a chance to explore your potential defenses.