In many people’s minds, shoplifting is a relatively minor offense. You may be surprised to learn that, in Missouri, shoplifting can be a felony. Its classification as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the circumstances of the alleged theft.
Some states have specific charges for shoplifting or “retail theft.” The law in Missouri simply recognizes shoplifting as a type of stealing. This means it carries the same negative stigma and potential penalties as other types of theft.
Shoplifting isn't limited to taking physical goods such as clothing or electronics. It also includes theft of services – for example, leaving a hotel or restaurant without paying. Likewise, Missouri makes it a crime to engage in any type of retail fraud such as swapping price tags or submitting fake returns.
Regardless of the exact allegations, the offense becomes a felony when the value of the stolen property is $500 or more. Shoplifting can also be a felony when it involves firearms, regardless of their dollar value, and certain other types of dangerous or sensitive property.
The penalties for a felony shoplifting charge can be significant. If the property is valued between $500 and $25,000, the offense is a class C felony – the same category as most types of auto theft and credit card theft. A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years. The sentence may be even longer for those with a criminal record. On top of the prison sentence, the fines and penalties for a class C felony can number well into the thousands of dollars.
As you can see, felony shoplifting is a serious crime with serious potential consequences. Accordingly, it is important to take steps to build a strong defense against allegations of the crime. Contacting a criminal defense lawyer is usually the best place to start.