Shoplifting – What To Do If You Get Caught Stealing

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If you get caught stealing, you can hire an attorney to represent you in court and get your shoplifting ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering,” which won’t show up on a standard criminal background check.

Why You Should Not Plead Guilty To Stealing

Many of my clients tell me that when they got caught stealing, the police officer issued a ticket and told them to just pay the fine for their shoplifting ticket because it’s not a serious offense. That is wrong information.

If you get caught stealing and you plead guilty, you will have a permanent conviction on your criminal record that won’t go away.

Having a conviction for stealing will prevent you from getting a job or internship, renting an apartment, getting a bank loan to buy a house, or obtaining federal financial aid for college. A shoplifting conviction can also cause you to lose your government subsidized housing.

A Conviction For Stealing Can Be Expunged

Recently the law has changed and now a conviction for stealing can be expunged. So, if you pleaded guilty to stealing or shoplifting and you have had a clean criminal record for the past 3 years, you can hire an attorney to expunge your stealing or shoplifting conviction.

To expunge a conviction for stealing, a hearing before a judge is required. The victim, the prosecutor, and the police officer who issued the ticket will all be notified of the hearing and can testify at the hearing if they object to your petition to expunge your stealing conviction.

In my opinion, your best choice is to hire an attorney up front to get your shoplifting ticket dismissed or reduced to “Littering,” instead of pleading guilty and then waiting 3 years to expunge it.

You Can Withdraw Your Guilty Plea For A Shoplifting or Stealing Ticket

If you recently pleaded guilty to shoplifting or stealing, you can change your mind and withdraw your guilty plea.

You will need an attorney to represent you to withdraw your plea.

Withdrawing your guilty plea is a good option if you recently pleaded guilty and don’t want to wait 3 years to have your conviction expunged.

The decision to let you withdraw your plea is totally up to the judge. An experienced attorney can advise you regarding how likely it is that the judge in your case will let you withdraw your plea.

Can An Attorney Get Your Shoplifting Ticket Dismissed?

An experienced criminal defense attorney can get your Shoplifting charge dismissed completely or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering.”

The outcome of your case depends on many things, such as:

  • Which court is your case being prosecuted in? (The name of the court is listed at the top of your ticket)
  • How old are you? (Courts are more lenient with young first-time offenders)
  • Do you have any prior arrests, charges, or convictions on your criminal record?
  • Were you polite and respectful to the police officer who issued the ticket?
  • What did you steal? (Stealing a bottle of alcohol may be treated differently than stealing baby formula)
  • What was the price of the item you stole?

Punishment For Shoplifting Under $500 in Missouri

Maximum penalties for class A misdemeanor Stealing (Under $500) is:

  • 1 year in jail
  • $1,000 fine
  • Conviction for Stealing on your permanent criminal record

No Jail Time For Shoplifting Under $150

Stealing Under $150 is a class D misdemeanor if you have no prior convictions.

The maximum penalty for class D misdemeanor Stealing Under $150 is:

  • No Jail Time (for first-time offenders)
  • $500 fine
  • Conviction for Stealing on your permanent criminal record

You can read my previous blog post, “How To Avoid Jail Time For Shoplifting” for more information.

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

A conviction for stealing or shoplifting stays on your criminal record forever unless you get it expunged, dismissed, or amended to a lesser offense such as “Littering.”

What Is Considered Misdemeanor “Stealing”?

You will have a conviction for misdemeanor Stealing on your permanent criminal record if you got caught stealing and pleaded guilty to any of the following:

  • Stealing Under $150
  • Stealing Under $500
  • Shoplifting
  • Petty Theft
  • Petty Larceny

How Much Do Attorneys Charge To Represent You For Your Stealing/Shoplifting Ticket?

An experienced shoplifting attorney can give you a flat-fee price quote for how much they will charge to represent you. They will also give you an estimate of the outcome of your case.

Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation, so it won’t cost you anything to call an attorney and find out if they can help you with your case.

Try to find an attorney who has experience handling shoplifting cases in the court where your case is being prosecuted.

In most misdemeanor shoplifting cases that I handle, my clients never have to appear in court.

What Is A Shoplifting Civil Demand Fine?

If you get caught Stealing, the police officer may arrest you and take you to jail, or they may just give you a ticket for Shoplifting and let you go.

Then you will get a “Civil Demand Letter” in the mail from the store’s attorney, stating that you owe the store $250 to reimburse them for their expenses related to your shoplifting.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys advise their clients to refuse to pay the Civil Demand Fine.

It is legal for the store to sue a shoplifter in civil court for a maximum of $250 to reimburse the store for their expenses related to the theft. However, you don’t owe the store anything unless they successfully sue you in civil court and win a judgment against you.

For a misdemeanor (under $500) stealing charge, it would be very unusual for a store to sue a shoplifter. That’s because the cost to file the lawsuit is much more than the $250 they would get if they win a judgment against you.

For more information about what happens if you don’t pay the $250 Civil Demand Fine, read my previous blog post, “How To Get Your Shoplifting Ticket Dismissed or Reduced to Littering.”

Is It Legal For a Store Employee To Detain a Shoplifter?

It is legal in Missouri for a store employee to detain a suspected shoplifter for a reasonable amount of time while they call the police and try to determine if you stole from them. However, the store risks being charged with false imprisonment if the detention period lasts too long.

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If you have been charged with stealing in Missouri, contact St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or [email protected] for a free consultation about your case.

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