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How To Avoid Jail Time For Shoplifting

If you get caught shoplifting items worth under $500 in Missouri, the potential punishment is 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you hire an experienced attorney to represent you, it is very likely that your shoplifting charge will be dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.”

Will You Go to Jail For Shoplifting in Missouri?

As noted above, the judge has the power to send you to jail for up to 1 year for misdemeanor stealing (under $500). However, if you have no prior convictions for stealing, theft, petty larceny, or shoplifting and you have an attorney representing you, there is very little chance you will go to jail.

How Can an Attorney Help With Your Shoplifting Case?

In most Missouri municipal courts, an experienced attorney can negotiate a plea bargain deal with the Prosecuting Attorney so that a misdemeanor shoplifting charge is either:

  • Dismissed completely,
  • Reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” or
  • Dismissed after a period of probation

In a typical shoplifting case in a Missouri municipal court in which the defendant has hired an attorney to work out a deal with the Prosecutor, the defendant will very likely be required to do one or all of the following:

  • Pay a fine
  • Pay court costs
  • Complete the “Theft Offender” class
  • Do a few hours of community service
  • Serve a period of 1 to 2 years on probation

PLEASE NOTE:  In some courts in Missouri, the Prosecutor will not dismiss or reduce shoplifting charges, even if the defendant has no prior convictions.

How Much Are the Fines & Court Costs You Pay to the Court For a Shoplifting Case?

The amount of the fine you will pay for shoplifting could be anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on which court your case is in, your criminal history, and other details of your case. The amount of the court costs vary by court and can range from $25 to $65.

The “Theft Offender” class that the court will require a shoplifter to attend can be completed in one day and usually costs around $50 to $75.

The community service hours can usually be completed at any non-profit charitable organization, and the court usually gives defendants 2-3 months to complete the hours. The number of community service hours usually range from 10 to 25 hours, depending on the court and the details of your case.

Probation periods range from 6 months to 2 years, and can be either court-supervised or unsupervised “bench” probation.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney For Your Shoplifting Case?

Most criminal defense attorneys charge a one-time flat-fee price to represent a defendant charged with misdemeanor (under $500) shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny. The amount the attorney charges depends on the following:

  • Which court is your case being prosecuted in? (Court name & address are listed on your ticket or summons.)
  • Do you have any prior convictions on your criminal record?
  • How old are you?
  • What did you steal?
  • What was the value of the items you stole?
  • Were the items you stole returned to the store undamaged?
  • Were you polite and respectful to the police officer?

What Will Happen If You Plead Guilty to Shoplifting With No Attorney Representing You?

Most attorneys advise defendants to not go to court without a lawyer or plead guilty to a charge of shoplifting, stealing, theft, or petty larceny in Missouri.

It will cost you less money up front if you plead guilty to shoplifting without having an attorney representing you. But in the long run it will cost you much more because having a shoplifting conviction on your permanent criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or obtaining a loan.


For more information about fighting a shoplifting/stealing charge in Missouri, read my previous blog post “What is the Punishment for Shoplifting/Stealing in Missouri?”

If you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, petty larceny, or petty theft in Missouri, call St. Louis Shoplifting Lawyer Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email her at for a price quote for legal representation.


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Andrea Rogers

With over 15 years of concentrated experience in Missouri traffic law and misdemeanors, Andrea Rogers of The Rogers Law Firm provides personalized, flat-fee legal services backed by a case outcome guarantee for every client she takes on across the state.