How Does Massachusetts Define Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is a serious crime that can have long-lasting consequences. If you have been charged with shoplifting in Massachusetts, it's essential to understand the charges against you and what you can do to protect your rights. In this blog post, we'll provide you with some useful tips to help you understand shoplifting charges in Massachusetts.
Under Massachusetts law, shoplifting is defined as the act of intentionally taking possession of, carrying away, concealing or transferring any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store without paying the purchase price. The intent to deprive the merchant of possession of such merchandise without paying for it is a critical component of this definition. It is worth noting that even the act of altering, transferring, or removing the label, price tag, or any other marking which aids in determining value affixed to such merchandise with the intention to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the value of the merchandise can also be construed as shoplifting.
How Is Shoplifting Categorized?
Is Shoplifting a Felony?
Shoplifting charges in Massachusetts are categorized according to the total value of the merchandise stolen. They are:
- Under $250: This is considered a misdemeanor offense. A first offense can result in a fine of up to $250, while subsequent offenses can lead to fines of up to $500 and a maximum of two years in jail.
- $250 to $1,200: Also considered a misdemeanor, this category can result in a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
- Over $1,200: This could be considered larceny and is treated as a felony. A conviction can lead to a maximum of five years in state prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
Note that these penalties can be further amplified if the shoplifting was committed in conjunction with other criminal offenses. It's also important to remember that even though shoplifting may seem like a minor crime, a conviction can significantly impact your future, including job prospects and educational opportunities, due to the permanent criminal record that follows.
Potential Defenses Against Shoplifting Charges
In facing shoplifting charges, it's critical to understand that there are defenses available that may help mitigate the penalties or even result in a dismissal of charges. These defenses often hinge on specific legal principles and the particular circumstances of the case.
A defense strategy might focus on:
- Lack of intent: Since the definition of shoplifting requires an "intention" to deprive the merchant of the merchandise without paying for it, proving that the accused did not intend to steal can be a valid defense. For instance, forgetting to pay for an item due to distraction or absent-mindedness is not shoplifting.
- Mistaken identity or false accusation: If you were wrongfully identified as the shoplifter, presenting evidence such as surveillance footage, eyewitness accounts, or alibi evidence proving you were elsewhere at the time of the incident can help clear your name.
- Ownership or right to possession: If you can prove that you believed in good faith that you had the right to possess the items in question, it could potentially serve as a defense. An example might include a situation where you believed the items were given to you as a gift.
- Involuntary intoxication or mental illness: In some cases, a person may not be held legally responsible for shoplifting if they can prove that they were involuntarily intoxicated or suffer from a mental disorder that prevented them from understanding the nature of their actions or distinguishing right from wrong.
- Entrapment: This defense may apply if a person was coerced or induced by someone else (typically law enforcement) to commit a crime that they would not have otherwise committed.
Remember, it's important to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can analyze the particulars of your case and advise on the most suitable defense strategy. Our legal team at Brad Bailey Law is well-equipped to potentially guide you through this process compassionately and effectively.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced defense attorney at (617) 500-0252 to schedule a consultation.