Shoplifting – What To Do If You Get Caught Stealing

caught stealing

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.

How to Get an Arrest Expunged from Your Criminal Record

You can get an arrest expunged from your permanent criminal record, but only if you were arrested based on false information and no charges were filed against you. The applicable Missouri statute related to expungement (removal) of arrest records is RSMo 610.122.

What Do You Have to Prove to Get an Arrest Expunged?

To get an arrest record removed from your permanent criminal record, you must prove the following:

1) Your arrest was based on false information,

2) There is no probable cause, at the time of the action to expunge, to believe you         committed the offense,

3) No charges will be pursued as a result of the arrest,

4) You have had no prior or subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions,

5) You did not receive an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) for the offense for which you were arrested, or for any related offense,

6) No civil action is pending relating to the arrest or the records you are trying to expunge.

So, if you were arrested but the the police let you go after they realized they had mistakenly arrested the wrong person based on false information, then you have a very good chance of getting the record of your arrest expunged.

But if you were arrested and charged with a criminal offense, and your attorney was able to negotiate a plea bargain deal so you received an SIS with probation, the record of that arrest can not be expunged from your criminal record.

You Don’t Have to Hire an Attorney to Get an Arrest Record Expunged

You can hire an attorney to file a petition for expungement of your Missouri arrest record, or you can file the petition yourself. Click here for the petition for expungement form. You will have to submit your fingerprints and pay a fee to file the petition. Then there will be a hearing before a judge, and if the judge denies your petition for expungement, you will have to wait a year to re-file.

How to Get a Criminal Conviction Expunged from your Criminal Record

Getting a conviction expunged is different from getting an arrest record expunged. Only a few types of misdemeanor convictions and felony convictions qualify for expungement, and only after 10 years (for misdemeanors) or 20 years (for felonies) of good behavior. If you want information about getting a conviction expunged from your criminal record, click here to read my previous blog post about Missouri criminal conviction expungement.


If you have questions about getting an arrest record or conviction expunged, call St. Louis traffic law attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email her at [email protected]

Do Warrants Show Up On a Criminal Background Check?

In general, arrests and convictions show up on a criminal background check but warrants do not. Warrant information is not public information and, therefore, only courts and law enforcement should know if you have a warrant.

However, it all depends on which entity is providing the criminal history. For example, if you purchase a criminal background report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, warrants will not be included in the criminal history, but warrants may appear in criminal background reports obtained from other entities.

How Much Information Will Show Up on Your Criminal Background Check?

The amount of information that shows up on a criminal background report depends on who is providing the report, but it also depends on who is requesting it. If you request your own background report and agree to be finger-printed, you will receive information on all of your open and closed cases. If a potential employer requests the report on your behalf, the employer will only receive information on open cases. However, the employer will also see your arrests and convictions, and the criminal background report will state why you were arrested and what crime you were convicted of.

Also, the criminal background check will be much more thorough if you are applying for a job with the FBI, a prison, police department, or other law enforcement-related entity.

The Record of an SIS May Show Up on a Criminal Background Report While You’re on Probation 

If you were charged with a criminal offense and received a plea-bargain deal called an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) with probation, your case will be an open case throughout the probation period. With an SIS, if you successfully complete probation without any violations, your case will be closed and there will be no conviction on your criminal record.

However, it is still possible that the record of the SIS will appear on a criminal background check. While your case is still an open case, companies that sell criminal background reports can find the record of your case and save it, and then they can sell that information later to any potential employer who wants to buy it.

Therefore, the record of your SIS and probation may appear on a criminal background report if the report is run during the time you’re on probation, but it may also show up even after your probation period is over and your case has been closed.

How to Get a Copy of Your Criminal Background Report

You can buy a copy of your criminal background report online from the Missouri State Highway Patrol:   https://www.machs.mshp.dps.mo.gov/MocchWebInterface/home.html

How To Get Convictions Expunged From Your Criminal Record

It is possible to get convictions expunged (removed) from your criminal record, but only a few types of misdemeanors and felonies are eligible for expungement, and only after 10 years (for misdemeanors) or 20 years (for felonies) of good behavior.

Keep in mind that, if you are able to get a conviction expunged from your criminal record, the conviction will still be visible to the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

For more information, click here to read my previous blog post about Missouri criminal record expungement.

How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant

Most criminal defense attorneys subscribe to some type of online service which allows them to run a warrant search for clients. Your attorney can find out if you have a warrant and can tell you whether the warrant is state-wide, regional, or nationwide in scope. You can also call the court to ask if they have issued a warrant for your arrest.

How To Get an Arrest Warrant Lifted in Missouri

In many cases, an attorney can get your warrant lifted and obtain a new court date for you, and you won’t have to pay the bond. See my previous blog post about how to get an arrest warrant lifted in Missouri.

However, if you have already appeared in court and pleaded guilty, but you failed to pay the fine or complete a court-ordered duty (attend driving school, perform community service, attend a drug education class, etc.), an attorney may not be able to get your warrant lifted without payment of a bond.


If you have questions about an arrest warrant or criminal background check, call St. Louis traffic lawyer Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or via email at [email protected] for a free consultation and a price quote for legal representation.

 

Expungement of Bad Check Conviction

A conviction for passing a bad check can be expunged (removed) from your criminal record, thanks to a new Missouri law that allows the expungement of old convictions for certain types of misdemeanors and felonies. The new expungement law is section 610.140 of Missouri House Bill No. 1647. 

Which Felonies and Misdemeanors Can be Expunged?

Misdemeanors:

    • Negligently Setting a Fire, Burning, or Exploding
    • Tampering in the 2nd Degree
    • Property Damage – Knowingly Damaging Property of Another
    • Trespassing
    • Entry on Posted Property
    • Gambling
    • Disturbing the Peace
    • Drunkenness or Drinking in Schools, Churches, or Courthouses

Misdemeanor or Felony:

    • Passing a Bad Check
    • Fraudulently Stopping Payment On an Instrument
    • Fraudulent Use of a Credit or Debit Device

You Can Request an Expungement Without Hiring a Lawyer

To request an expungement of a conviction for passing a bad check (either felony or misdemeanor), you must file a petition in court. You can request the expungement of the record of the arrest, plea, trial, or conviction.

You don’t have to hire an attorney to file a petition for expungement of criminal records in Missouri, but there will be a hearing in front of a judge. If the judge dismisses your petition for expungement, you will have to wait another year before re-filing, and the court will charge a $100 fee each time you file a new petition.

Click here for the form you must file to expunge an arrest record or conviction.

Requirements for Expungement

The purpose of the court hearing is to determine if you have met the following requirements for expungement:

    • 10 years (for a misdemeanor) or 20 years (for a felony) have passed since the person completed his imprisonment, probation, or parole
    • You have not been found guilty of any misdemeanor or felony during that time
    • You have paid all restitution ordered by the court
    • Your circumstances and behavior warrant expungement
    • Expungement is consistent with the public welfare

First-Time DWI and MIP Convictions Can Be Expunged  

Other than the misdemeanors and felonies listed above, no other criminal records can be expunged in Missouri except a first-time misdemeanor DWI after 10 years have passed since the conviction date, or a first-time MIP (Minor in Possession) after 1 year has passed since the conviction date, or after the defendant turns 21, whichever occurs first. See my previous blog posts about how to get a Missouri DWI or MIP conviction expunged.

Convictions for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia can not be expunged.

Criminal Record Expungement in Missouri

A new Missouri law will allow some misdemeanors and felonies to be expunged from your criminal record. Previously, only first-time misdemeanor DWI and MIP convictions could be expunged (removed) from your criminal record, and no felonies could ever be expunged.

New Missouri Criminal Record Expungement Law Goes Into Effect August 28, 2012

The new law (See section 610.140 of Missouri House Bill No. 1647 about expungement) will go into effect on August 28, 2012 and will allow you to file a petition in court to get the records of the following misdemeanors and felonies expunged from your criminal record:

Misdemeanors:

  • Negligently Setting a Fire, Burning, or Exploding
  • Tampering in the 2nd Degree
  • Property Damage – Knowingly Damaging Property of Another
  • Trespassing
  • Entry on Posted Property
  • Gambling
  • Disturbing the Peace
  • Drunkenness or Drinking in Schools, Churches, or Courthouses

Misdemeanors and Felonies:

  • Passing a Bad Check
  • Fraudulently Stopping Payment On an Instrument
  • Fraudulent Use of a Credit or Debit Device

You Must Have a Clean Record For 10 Years (For Misdemeanors) Or 20 Years (For Felonies) To Get Your Criminal Record Expunged

10 years must have passed since your misdemeanor conviction (20 years for a felony conviction) without being found guilty of any other misdemeanor or felony during that time, for you to be eligible to file a petition for expungement in Missouri. This only applies to the misdemeanors and felonies listed in the previous paragraph.

Can I File a Petition For Expungement of Criminal Records Without Hiring An Attorney?

You don’t have to hire an attorney to file a petition for expungement of criminal records in Missouri, but keep in mind that there will be a hearing in front of a judge to determine if you have met certain requirements. If your petition is dismissed, you will have to wait another year before refiling, and the court will assess a $100 surcharge each time you file a petition for expungement.

Drug Possession and DWI Convictions Can’t Be Expunged Under the New Missouri Expungement Law

Other than the misdemeanors and felonies listed above, no other criminal records can be expunged in Missouri except for a first-time misdemeanor DWI after 10 years have passed since the conviction date, or a first-time MIP (Minor in Possession) after 1 year has passed since the defendant was convicted, or after he turns age 21, whichever occurs first.

See my previous blog posts about how to get a Missouri DWI or MIP conviction expunged.

Click here for information about what kinds of traffic convictions stay on your Missouri driving record forever.