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 stores 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 [email protected] for a price quote for legal representation.