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Shoplifting – How To Avoid Jail Time And A Conviction On Your Criminal Record

Shoplifting stays on your criminal record forever and can prevent you from getting a job or renting an apartment. An experienced attorney can get your shoplifting ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense such as “Littering.”

What Is The Penalty For Shoplifting In Missouri?

In addition to the penalties listed above, you will have a conviction for stealing that will show up on your permanent criminal record.

Can An Attorney Get Your Shoplifting Ticket Dismissed?

If you have been charged with Shoplifting, Stealing, Petty Theft, or Petty Larceny, these are your options:

  • Plead guilty (not recommended)
  • Plead not guilty and take your case to trial (expensive, with a high risk of losing)
  • Hire an attorney to get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering”

Here are some things that will affect the type of plea bargain deal you will get:

  • How old are you?
  • Have you been caught shoplifting before?
  • What did you steal?
  • Do you have an experienced attorney representing you?
  • Which court is your case being prosecuted in? (some judges require jail time for shoplifting)

What Happens If You Plead Guilty To Shoplifting

If you plead guilty to shoplifting or stealing, the conviction will stay on your criminal record forever and you can never have it expunged or sealed.

Some people decide to plead guilty to minor shoplifting charges because it’s cheaper than hiring a lawyer to get the charge dismissed or reduced to “Littering.” Or they plead guilty because the police officer told them it’s “just like a speeding ticket.”

Needless to say, shoplifting tickets are not like speeding tickets. If you plead guilty to stealing or shoplifting, even if it’s under $150, you will end up with a conviction for stealing on your permanent criminal record.

A conviction for shoplifting can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting federal student aid for college. It can also cause you to lose your government subsidized housing.

How Long Does a Shoplifting Conviction Stay On Your Criminal Record?

Shoplifting will stay on your criminal record forever because a shoplifting conviction can’t be expunged.

Missouri’s new expungement law increased the number of misdemeanors and felonies that are eligible for expungement (removal), but stealing/shoplifting is still not on the list of offenses that can be expunged.

What To Do If You Pleaded Guilty To Shoplifting But Want To Change Your Plea

After you plead guilty to shoplifting, it’s not too late to change your mind and withdraw your plea. You will need to hire an attorney to withdraw your plea and get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering.”

It’s more difficult to withdraw a guilty plea if:

  • You had an attorney representing you when you pleaded guilty, or
  • Too much time has passed since your plea

Should You Pay The $250 Civil Demand Fine For Shoplifting?

If you get caught stealing, the police officer may arrest you and take you to jail, or they might just issue a ticket for shoplifting and let you go.

The next thing that will happen after you get caught shoplifting is that you will receive a “Civil Demand” letter in the mail from an attorney representing the store where you shoplifted. The shoplifting Civil Demand letter will state that you owe the store $250 to reimburse them for their expenses related to your shoplifting.

Many people pay the shoplifting Civil Demand fine because they fear what will happen if they refuse to pay. Please note the following:

  • You do not owe the store anything unless they successfully sue you in court and win a judgment against you
  • If your attorney has experience handling shoplifting cases, they will advise you to refuse to pay the shoplifting Civil Demand fine
  • Whether or not you pay the Civil Demand fine will have no effect on your criminal shoplifting case

You can read more about this in my previous blog post, “Should You Pay a Shoplifting Civil Demand Fine.”

Will The Store Sue You For Shoplifting?

Stores can legally sue shoplifters but most don’t because the litigation costs more than the $250 judgment they would get if they defeat you in court.

In addition, the store knows it will be very difficult to garnish your paycheck or bank account to collect the $250 judgment.

If you have been charged with shoplifting in Missouri, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney before deciding what to do. Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation.

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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.