Avoid a Shoplifting Conviction On Your Criminal Record

Hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to avoid having a shoplifting conviction on your criminal record.

Don’t Plead Guilty to Shoplifting 

If you go to court on your own without an attorney and plead guilty to shoplifting, you will end up with a conviction for stealing that will show up on your permanent criminal record.

Having a stealing conviction on your criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a bank loan, or getting federal student aid for college.

Why You Should Hire An Attorney To Help With Your Stealing Charge

An experienced attorney who has represented a lot of Missouri defendants charged with stealing can give you the best estimate of the most likely outcome of your case.

In some cases, it may be in your best interest to plead not guilty and take your case to trial, while in other situations, your best option may be to have your attorney negotiate a plea bargain deal with the Prosecutor.

Discuss your case with an experienced attorney before deciding what to do. Most criminal defense attorneys will offer a free consultation and give you an estimate of the outcome of your case, along with a flat-fee price quote for how much they will charge to represent you.

Here are some possible outcomes for defendants who are represented by an experienced shoplifting attorney for their Missouri misdemeanor shoplifting charge:

  • The charge is dismissed after defendant completes the “Theft Offender” class and pays court costs, or
  • The charge is dismissed after defendant completes a few hours of community service and pays court costs, or
  • The charge is reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” after defendant pays a fine and court costs, or
  • The charge is dismissed after defendant completes a period of probation and pays court costs but is not required to pay a fine

What Is The Punishment for Shoplifting or Stealing Under $500 in Missouri?

The maximum sentence for shoplifting in Missouri is 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Misdemeanor shoplifting is sometimes charged as “Stealing Under $500,” “Petty Larceny,” or “Petty Theft.”

The Prosecutor may charge you with “Misdemeanor Stealing” for stealing items valued under $500.

The Prosecutor may charge you with “Felony Stealing” for stealing items valued at $500 or more.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you have are charged with misdemeanor stealing for the 4th time within 10 years, the Prosecuting Attorney must charge you with Felony Stealing, which is a much more serious charge than misdemeanor stealing.

Jail Time Is a Possibility for Misdemeanor Shoplifting in Missouri

As noted above, the maximum penalty in Missouri for misdemeanor shoplifting is 1 year in jail. However, a 1-year jail sentence for shoplifting is not likely unless you have multiple prior stealing convictions and you don’t have an experienced attorney representing you.

WARNING:  In some Missouri courts, the Prosecutor will not dismiss or reduce shoplifting charges to a lesser offense, even if the defendant has no prior convictions and is represented by an attorney. If your case is in a court in which the Prosecutor does not dismiss or amend shoplifting charges, your attorney will have to negotiate directly with the judge for a reduction in jail time.

No Jail Time for Stealing Under $150

A new law took effect in Missouri on January 1, 2017 stating that the maximum penalty for first-time offenders accused of misdemeanor “Stealing Under $150” is a $500 fine but no jail time.

See my previous blog post “No Jail Time For Stealing Under $150” for more information about this new Missouri shoplifting law.

Should You Pay the “Civil Demand” If You Are Caught Shoplifting?

After being arrested for shoplifting, the store where you were caught stealing will send you a “Civil Demand” letter, stating that you owe the store $250 to reimburse them for their expenses.

Most experienced attorneys advise their clients to refuse to pay the civil demand. Whether or not you pay the civil demand will have no effect on your criminal shoplifting case.

You don’t owe the store anything unless the store sues you and wins a judgment against you in civil court. Most stores don’t sue shoplifters who steal items valued under $500 because a lawsuit costs the store more than the judgment is worth, and because it is time-consuming for the store to collect on a judgment.

See my previous blog post “What To Do If You Are Charged With Shoplifting” for more information about “Civil Demand” letters.


Call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email Andrea at arogers@rogerslawfirmllc.com for a free consultation about your case. Andrea can give you an estimate of the outcome of your case and a flat-fee price quote for legal representation.

 

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 andrea@leadfootspeedingticket.com for a price quote for legal representation.

 

What Is The Punishment For Shoplifting/Stealing in Missouri?

Stealing items worth under $500 is a class A misdemeanor in Missouri. This is sometimes called “Shoplifting,” “Petty Larceny,” “Petty Theft,” or just “Stealing.”

If you plead guilty or are found guilty of shoplifting or stealing under $500 in Missouri, the judge can sentence you to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Stores Can Sue Shoplifters

A store can sue you for the expenses they incurred as a result of your shoplifting.

Missouri law allows stores to sue shoplifters in civil court for restitution and damages. This means the store can sue you to get reimbursement for their costs and expenses, such as the cost for them to employ a security guard, or their expenses for items that get damaged and can not be re-shelved after they catch you shoplifting and retrieve the stolen item.

What Is a Civil Demand & Do I Have To Pay the $250?

After getting caught shoplifting, the store’s lawyer will send you a “civil demand letter.” The civil demand letter will state that you owe the store $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses resulting from your shoplifting.

Most attorneys advise their shoplifting clients to refuse to pay the $250 civil demand. As noted above, there is a Missouri law that allows stores to sue shoplifters but few stores actually do so.

You do not owe the store anything unless the store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a money judgment against you. Then, the store has to somehow collect on the judgment, which is very hard to do unless the store knows your bank account number or where you work.

What Happens If I Plead Guilty to Shoplifting or Stealing?

In Missouri, a judge can sentence you to up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if you plead guilty or are found guilty of misdemeanor stealing (under $500).

Having a conviction for stealing on your criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, and obtaining a loan.

Convictions for stealing are not eligible for expungement (removal) from your criminal record.

Hire a Lawyer To Fight Your Shoplifting/Stealing Charge

To avoid having a conviction for stealing on your permanent criminal record, hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court for your shoplifting/stealing charge.

In most cases, an experienced shoplifting lawyer can get your shoplifting charge dismissed completely or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” The outcome of your case depends on many factors, but it is very likely that you won’t have to appear in court at all if you hire an attorney to represent you.

For more information about fighting a shoplifting/stealing charge in Missouri, read my previous blog post “What Is The Penalty For Shoplifting 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 andrea@leadfootspeedingticket.com for a price quote for legal representation.

 

How to Keep a Stealing Charge Off of Your Criminal Record

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.

What to Do If You’re Charged With Shoplifting

Call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers today at (314) 724-5059 about your Missouri shoplifting case.

Hire an Attorney if You Want to Avoid a Shoplifting Conviction 

In most cases, an experienced attorney can get your Missouri shoplifting charge dismissed completely or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” with no court appearance required.

The outcome of your case depends on the following:

  • Do you have prior convictions for stealing, theft, or shoplifting?
  • How old are you?
  • Were you cooperative, or did you try to run away from the security guard or police?
  • Does your attorney have experience defending shoplifting cases?
  • Which court is your case being prosecuted in?
  • What type of items did you steal? (for example:  bottle of alcohol, food items, baby clothes, etc.)

Don’t Plead Guilty to Shoplifting

Some people think shoplifting is not a real crime. They don’t realize that a conviction for shoplifting, stealing, or petty theft will show up on their criminal background. Once you plead guilty to stealing, that conviction can never be expunged (removed) from your criminal record.

What Happens if You Plead Guilty to Shoplifting/Stealing/Petty Theft?

If you plead guilty or are convicted of shoplifting, stealing, or petty theft, the conviction will go on your permanent criminal record and will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan from a bank, and obtaining federal student loans.

The Maximum Penalty for Misdemeanor Stealing in Missouri is 1 Year in Jail and a $1,000 Fine

In Missouri, a shoplifter can be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each misdemeanor charge of stealing items valued at under $500. Stealing items valued at $500 or more is a felony and is a much more serious crime.

For more information, click here to read my previous blog post about penalties for shoplifting in Missouri.

Should You Pay the Store’s $250 Civil Demand?

Most stores send a “Civil Demand” letter to a shoplifter, demanding that the shoplifter pay $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses related to the theft.

In some situations, the store’s security guards or “Loss Prevention” personnel demand that the shoplifter pay the $250 immediately, before they leave the store. Security guards and store personnel can be very threatening and will lie to the shoplifter, telling them they can’t leave unless they pay immediately. They might refuse to allow the suspected shoplifter to call a family member or attorney, or they might use other tactics intended to intimidate, such as refusing to allow the shoplifter to use the bathroom while waiting several hours until the police arrive.

A common scheme is for the store’s security guard to tell a shoplifter that the civil demand is $250 today, but if you don’t pay immediately, the amount will increase to $500 tomorrow. This is a lie and is basically just a shakedown by the store.

Most Stores Don’t Sue Shoplifters

Missouri law does allow stores to sue shoplifters for up to $250. However, you don’t owe the store anything unless the store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a judgment against you.

Stores rarely sue shoplifters because the expense involved in suing is much more than the store’s actual damages. Most experienced attorneys advise their clients to ignore a store’s “civil demand.” But if you are being detained in a store and accused of shoplifting, you will be tempted to pay the civil demand in the hopes that the store will release you and not call the police.

Please Note:  Paying the $250 civil demand to the store does not ensure that the store will not call the police and file criminal charges against you.

What Happens if a Store Sues a Shoplifter?

If the store actually sues a shoplifter, the store can collect on its judgment by garnishing the defendant’s paycheck or bank account. The store can recover actual damages, a penalty of up to $250, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees. The store can’t garnish your paycheck or bank account unless it knows where you work or has your bank account number.

As noted previously, paying the $250 “civil demand” to the store has no effect on the outcome of your criminal shoplifting case.

Shoplifters Can Sue Stores for False Imprisonment, Assault, and Battery

Security guards and other store personnel can legally use “reasonable force” necessary to detain a suspected shoplifter “in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time” while the merchant determines whether the person has stolen any items from the store and to allow time for the police to arrive.

However, if the detention is too long or the force used is unreasonable, the store risks being sued by the shoplifter for assault, battery, and false imprisonment.


If you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, petty theft, or larceny in Missouri, call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation and get a price quote for legal representation.

No Jail Time for Stealing Under $150

Call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers today at (314) 724-5059 about your shoplifting/stealing/theft case.

A new Missouri law will reduce “stealing under $150” from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D misdemeanor for first-time offenders. This newly created Class D misdemeanor stealing offense will be punishable by a fine of up to $500 but no jail time.

The new Missouri stealing law takes effect January 1, 2017.

What is the Maximum Penalty for Stealing Under $500 in Missouri?

Under current law, stealing or shoplifting property valued under $500 is a Class A misdemeanor unless the stolen item is a certain specified type of property. The maximum penalty in Missouri for Class A stealing is 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

New Law Increases the Fine for Class C Stealing

Terms of imprisonment for the other classes of misdemeanor stealing will not change when the new law goes into effect on January 1, 2017. However, the new law will increase the maximum fine for Class C misdemeanor stealing from $300 to $750.

Charge Reduced for Stealing/Shoplifting Repeat Offenders 

The new law will also help repeat offenders. Currently in Missouri, if a person is charged with stealing or shoplifting for a 3rd time within 10 years, the prosecuting attorney must charge the defendant with felony stealing. (The penalties for felony stealing are much worse than for misdemeanor stealing.)

The new law will require the defendant to be charged with a felony only upon the 4th stealing offense within 10 years.

An Attorney Can Get Your Stealing/Shoplifting Charge Dismissed or Reduced to a Lesser Offense

Having a conviction for stealing on your criminal record will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or obtaining a federal student loan. In many cases, an attorney can get your misdemeanor shoplifting or stealing charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.”

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

1) which court your case is in (some courts are stricter than others),

2) your criminal history (having prior convictions makes a big difference), and

3) the details of your particular case (it’s worse if you ran from the security guard)

In many cases, your attorney can negotiate a plea bargain deal with the court so that all you have to do is pay a fine and court costs, and you won’t have to appear in court.

In other cases, the best possible outcome may be an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) with probation. With an SIS, there will be no conviction on your criminal record if you successfully complete probation without any violations.


If you have been charged with stealing or shoplifting in Missouri, call St. Louis attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation and price quote for legal representation. Or email Andrea at andrea@leadfootspeedingticket.com or at info@leadfootspeedingticket.com

Punishment for Shoplifting at St. Louis Galleria Mall

Call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers today at (314) 724-5059 about your Missouri shoplifting case.

The consequences of shoplifting at the Galleria mall in St. Louis, Missouri are more serious than in other areas of St. Louis.

Which Court Prosecutes St. Louis Galleria Shoplifters?

If you have been charged with misdemeanor shoplifting (under $500) at the Galleria in St. Louis, your case will be prosecuted in the Richmond Heights Municipal Court, which treats shoplifting more seriously than many other municipalities in St. Louis.

How to Decide Whether to Accept a Plea Bargain or Go to Trial With Your Shoplifting Case

If you have proof of your innocence and you can afford to hire a trial attorney, you might want to consider taking your case to trial. But if you can’t afford a trial attorney and you have no proof of your innocence, or if you’re actually guilty of shoplifting, you can hire an attorney to negotiate a plea bargain with the court to get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.

The outcome of your case depends on many factors, including 1) your criminal history, 2) your age, 3) the specific details of your case, 4) the skill and experience of your attorney, 5) which court your case is being prosecuted in, and 6) the nature and value of the item you stole.

An Attorney Can Keep You From Having a Shoplifting Conviction on Your Criminal Record

In many courts in the St. Louis area, an experienced attorney can get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to “Littering” with a fine and no court appearance required.

But for Galleria shoplifting cases, you will have to appear in court with your attorney, and the best plea bargain deal your attorney can negotiate is most likely an SIS (suspended imposition of sentence), 2 years of probation, payment of $26.50 in court costs, 20 hours of community service, completion of the “Theft Offenders” class, and you will be prohibited from entering the Galleria during the probation period.

If you successfully complete probation with no violations, the court will close your case with no conviction on your criminal record.

What is an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence)?

An SIS is a Suspended Imposition of Sentence. This means there will be no conviction on your criminal record if you successfully complete probation without any violations. While on probation for shoplifting, it is considered a violation if you are arrested, charged, or have any type of law enforcement contact relating to shoplifting, theft, larceny, or stealing.

Often, one of the conditions of probation is that you are banned from entering the mall or store where you were caught shoplifting. If you violate that ban by entering the mall or store, you could be arrested and charged with trespassing.

If you violate probation, there will be a probation revocation hearing, where the judge will decide whether to revoke your probation and sentence you for the original crime you committed.

What is the Maximum Penalty for Shoplifting in Missouri?

The maximum penalty for misdemeanor shoplifting in Missouri is 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000. You can represent yourself in court for a shoplifting charge, but without legal representation, you risk having the judge sentence you to the maximum punishment.

Shoplifting Convictions Show Up On Criminal Background Checks

Many people mistakenly believe that a ticket for shoplifting is just a minor offense that won’t affect their criminal record, and that all they have to do to resolve their case is plead guilty and pay a small fine.This is not true.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you plead guilty to shoplifting, you will have a conviction on your permanent criminal record, and that conviction will show up on criminal background checks. A shoplifting conviction can’t be expunged (removed) later, and it will prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan from a bank, and obtaining federal student loans.

Stores Can Sue You in Civil Court for Shoplifting

Missouri law allows stores to sue shoplifters. Many stores send “civil demand” letters to shoplifters, threatening to sue the person in civil court unless they pay $250 to the store to reimburse it for its expenses. This is separate and different from a criminal shoplifting charge.

Many attorneys advise their clients to ignore “civil demand” letters because it’s not very likely that a store will follow through on its threat to sue the shoplifter in civil court.

Remember:  You don’t owe the store anything unless the store sues you in civil court and wins a judgment against you. If that occurs, the store can collect on its judgment by garnishing your paycheck or bank account (if they know where you work or if they have your bank account number). The most that a store can recover from a shoplifter they have successfully sued in civil court is $250.

Keep in mind that paying the “civil demand” has no effect on your criminal shoplifting case. For more information, click here to read my previous blog post about penalties for shoplifting in Missouri.


If you have been charged with shoplifting, stealing, petty theft, or larceny, call St. Louis shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation and get a price quote for legal representation.

What is the Penalty for Shoplifting in Missouri?

Call Missouri shoplifting attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation about your shoplifting/stealing charge.

Penalties for Shoplifting in Missouri

Stealing (under $500) is a class A misdemeanor in Missouri, for which a judge can sentence you to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In addition to the criminal charges that you may face for stealing, Missouri law allows stores to sue shoplifters in civil court for restitution and damages. You will receive a “civil demand letter” in the mail from the store’s attorney claiming that you owe the store $250.

How Can an Attorney Help If You Are Charged With Stealing or Shoplifting?

In many cases, an attorney can get a misdemeanor shoplifting charge reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering,” if you have no prior convictions. Depending on the court in which you are prosecuted, it’s possible that all you will have to do is pay a fine and court costs, and you won’t have to appear in court.

Some courts are not so lenient with shoplifters. In those courts, the best option available to you will be an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) and probation. If you receive an SIS, no conviction will be entered on your permanent criminal record if you successfully complete your period of probation without any further convictions.

In addition, the court may require you to attend a “Theft Offenders” class and perform a few hours of community service. You may also be banned from entering all stores in the chain of stores that you stole from.

What Does the Judge Consider When Sentencing a Shoplifter in Missouri?

The sentence you receive for stealing in Missouri will depend on the following:

  • What did you steal? (For example, if you stole a bottle of alcohol, the court may order you to attend an alcohol education program. If you stole ingredients to make meth, then it’s a felony and you could be sentenced to two to seven years in prison.)
  • What was the price of the item that you stole?
  • Did you immediately return the undamaged item to the store?
  • Did you attempt to run away from the store’s security guard?
  • How old are you?
  • In which county is your case being prosecuted? (In some counties in Missouri, defendants who are not represented by an attorney, and who plead guilty to shoplifting, face a mandatory sentence of 2 days in jail.)
  • Do you have prior convictions for theft, stealing, shoplifting, or larceny?

Convictions for Stealing Stay on Your Criminal Record Forever

If you plead guilty to shoplifting, stealing, theft, or larceny, the conviction will remain on your criminal record forever, and you will not be able to get it expunged (removed). Having a conviction for stealing can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a loan, or being accepted into a college or graduate school.

Store Owners or Employees Can Detain a Suspected Shoplifter 

Missouri law also allows store owners or employees to detain a suspected shoplifter for a “reasonable” period of time, in a “reasonable manner” if the store employee has reasonable grounds or probable cause to believe that the person has stolen, or is in the process of stealing merchandise or cash from the store.

If the security guard detains a shoplifter for more than a reasonable period of time before calling the police or releasing the shoplifter, then the store is at risk of being charged with false imprisonment.

When the police officer issues a ticket for shoplifting, the charge can be described as any one of the following:

  • Shoplifting
  • Stealing
  • Stealing Under $500
  • Petty Larceny
  • Theft
  • Theft of Services

You will be given a court date, at which you can choose to appear on your own, or you can hire an attorney to represent you.

Statute of Limitations for Shoplifting in Missouri

The statute of limitations in Missouri for shoplifting is one year for a misdemeanor or three years for a felony. It’s considered a misdemeanor if the value of the item that was stolen is less than $500.

The time period begins when the offense occurs. This means the prosecuting attorney has one year from the date of the alleged shoplifting incident to file charges against a person for a misdemeanor shoplifting charge, or three years for a felony shoplifting charge.

What If the Store Doesn’t Press Criminal Charges?

In some cases, the store manager will not call the police or press criminal charges. Instead, the store will hire an attorney to send the accused shoplifter a “civil demand letter,” demanding that they pay an amount of $100 to $250 to reimburse the store for damages.

Keep in mind that the store can press criminal charges and also sue for civil damages.

Missouri Law Allows Stores to Sue Shoplifters  

It is legal for a store to send a civil demand letter to a shoplifter. Missouri (and every other state in the U.S.) has a law that allows retail stores to sue shoplifters to recover damages resulting from shoplifting.

If a store is successful in its lawsuit and wins a judgment against a shoplifter, the shoplifter can be forced to return the stolen merchandise or pay for the item that was stolen or damaged. This law also allows the store to recover an amount of $100 to $250 to reimburse the store for its expenses, such as the cost of hiring a security guard.

Instead of actually filing a civil lawsuit in court against the shoplifter, most stores usually hire a debt collection law firm to send a civil demand letter to the accused shoplifter and make repeated threatening phone calls.

Don’t Pay the “Civil Demand” for Shoplifting

If you have been accused of shoplifting and you receive a civil demand letter from a law firm demanding money, don’t pay it. Many accused shoplifters pay because they don’t know any better. Stores often engage in this type of behavior even if the item is recovered undamaged and they don’t press criminal charges against the shoplifter.

Stores Almost Never Sue Shoplifters 

If you refuse to pay in response to the civil demand letter, the store can sue you in court, and if they win a judgment against you, they can garnish your wages to force you to pay. But until the store sues you and wins, you don’t owe them anything.

The cost of hiring an attorney to sue a shoplifter far exceeds the amount of loss to the store. Therefore, it is extremely rare that a store will spend the money to hire an attorney to sue a shoplifter. Often, the item that was stolen is worth a very small amount (a $10 pair of sunglasses from Walmart, for example) and the shoplifter has already given the item back to the store, so the store’s damages are minimal.

Click on this link to read a recent Wall Street Journal article about how often stores send civil demand letters to shoplifters demanding money but rarely file a lawsuit against a shoplifter.

Paying the “Civil Demand” Has No Effect on the Criminal Case 

As discussed above, a merchant can press criminal charges against you for stealing and also file a civil lawsuit against you to make you reimburse them for their expenses.

Many people pay the civil demand, thinking that this will resolve their case, but it doesn’t. Whether you pay the civil demand or not will have no effect on your criminal case. The judge in the criminal case will not give you a better “deal” because you paid the civil demand, and you will still have to appear in court or hire an attorney to represent you. The amount of the fine that you will have to pay to the court will not be decreased by the amount of the civil demand that you already paid.

Don’t Return to Store After Shoplifting Conviction

After being convicted of shoplifting, the store that you stole from may prohibit you from returning to their store (or any other store in their entire chain of stores) in the future. You can be charged with trespassing if the store’s security guard catches you in any one of their stores after you have been banned from the premises.