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 [email protected] 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.