Stealing Under $150 in Missouri is a class D misdemeanor for first-time offenders, punishable by a fine of $500 but no jail time.
Shoplifting Laws & Punishment
According to Missouri shoplifting law, stealing items valued at under $500 is a class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
As of January 1, 2017, a new law went into effect in Missouri that made a first-time offense of Stealing Under $150 worth of items a class D misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $500 but no jail time.
If you have been charged with Stealing Under $150 and you have prior theft-related convictions, you will NOT be considered a first-time offender, and the maximum penalty will be 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Stealing items valued at $500 or more is felony stealing, which has much more serious penalties than misdemeanor Stealing Under $500.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are found guilty of Stealing Under $500 on three separate occasions within 10 years of your current stealing or shoplifting charge, the Prosecutor can charge you with class E felony stealing.
What Happens If You Plead Guilty to Stealing Under $150?
Some people choose to plead guilty to Stealing Under $150 because all they have to do is go to court and pay the fine, with no possibility of jail time if they are first-time offenders.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the long-term effects of pleading guilty. If you are a first-time offender and you plead guilty to Stealing Under $150, you won’t do any jail time, but you will still end up with a conviction for stealing on your permanent criminal record.
Having a theft-related conviction on your criminal record can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or obtaining federal student loans for college.
What Happens If You Plead Guilty to Stealing Under $500?
If you plead guilty to Stealing Under $500, the judge can sentence you to 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000 and you will have a conviction for stealing on your criminal record.
Jail Time is Possible If You Are Charged With Stealing
Most shoplifting defendants who hire an experienced attorney to represent them do not serve any time in jail. However, jail time is a possibility in the following situations:
- You have several prior theft-related convictions.
- You try to represent yourself in court without an attorney’s assistance.
- Your case is being prosecuted in a court in which the judge refuses to allow a plea bargain deal for a shoplifting charge. (Some judges require a mandatory 2 days in jail for shoplifting)
An Attorney Can Get Your Shoplifting Charge Dismissed or Reduced To a Lesser Offense
You can take your shoplifting case to trial, but trials are expensive and you risk being convicted.
Instead of going to trial, you can hire an attorney to negotiate a pre-trial plea bargain deal with the Prosecutor to get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” You will have to pay a fine and court costs, but there will be no jail time, and it is very likely that you won’t have to appear in court.
If the Prosecutor won’t agree to reduce the charge to “Littering,” they might instead agree to dismiss the case after a period of probation.
Your attorney can give you an estimate of the most likely outcome of your case, which depends on these factors:
- How old are you?
- What did you steal? (a bottle of alcohol/baby formula/clothes for yourself)
- What was the dollar value of the items that you stole?
- Do you have any prior theft-related arrests, charges, or convictions?
- Which court is your case being prosecuted in?
- How did you behave toward the police officer or security guard?
Before hiring an attorney, call around and speak with a few attorneys until you find one you feel comfortable with. Most criminal defense attorneys will give you a free consultation over the phone and can give you a flat-fee price quote for how much they will charge to represent you, and an estimate of the fines and court costs you will have to pay.
Should You Pay The $250 Civil Penalty For Shoplifting?
Stores can legally sue shoplifters for a maximum of $250 to reimburse the store for its damages.
Here’s how it works: If you get caught shoplifting, the store’s attorney will send you a letter stating that you owe the store $250. This is called a “civil demand” or a “civil penalty” letter.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys advise their clients to refuse to pay this $250 civil penalty for shoplifting.
The only way you would owe $250 to the store is if the store successfully sues you in civil court and wins a judgment against you. Most stores don’t sue shoplifters because it costs the store much more than $250 to sue you and collect on the judgment.
The civil court case is a separate case from your criminal shoplifting case. Whether or not you pay the $250 civil penalty for shoplifting will make no difference in the outcome of your criminal case.
If you need help with a ticket for shoplifting or stealing, call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email her at [email protected] for a free consultation and a flat-fee price quote for legal representation.