How to Keep a Stealing Charge Off of Your Criminal Record

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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.

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