How To Get A Shoplifting Ticket Dismissed Or Reduced To A Less Serious Offense

shoplifting ticket

An experienced attorney can get your shoplifting ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense such as “Littering” with no jail time required.

Most people who get a shoplifting ticket won’t have to appear in court if they hire an experienced attorney to represent them.

The outcome of your case depends on the answers to these questions:

  • Which court is your case being prosecuted in? (In some counties in Missouri, the Prosecutor requires shoplifters to serve 2 days in jail.)
  • How many times have you been arrested or charged with stealing in the past?
  • How old are you?
  • Did you try to run from the store’s security guard?
  • What type of item did you steal?
  • What was the value of the stolen items?
  • How experienced is your attorney?

What Is Considered Misdemeanor Stealing In Missouri?

Stealing items valued under $500 is considered misdemeanor stealing in Missouri. If you took something from a store without paying for it, you could be charged with any of the following:

  • Stealing Under $150
  • Stealing Under $500
  • Shoplifting
  • Petty Theft
  • Petty Larceny

You can be charged with stealing even if you don’t actually leave the store with the items you intended to take. Stores have cameras and security guards watching to see if you are concealing an item in your purse, in a stroller, or under your clothes.

How Serious Is A Shoplifting Ticket?

A minor shoplifting ticket may sound like it’s no big deal, but it is a criminal case. Any shoplifting conviction will stay on your criminal record forever, unless you get it expunged.

Jail time is a possibility for misdemeanor shoplifting of items valued at $150 to $500.

In some counties in Missouri, the Prosecutor requires all shoplifters to serve 2 days in jail.

What Is The Punishment For Shoplifting Under $500 In Missouri?

The maximum penalty for class A misdemeanor stealing (under $500) is:

  • 1 year in jail
  • $1,000 fine
  • Conviction for stealing will show up on your permanent criminal record

What Is The Punishment For Shoplifting Under $150 In Missouri?

The maximum penalty for class D misdemeanor stealing under $150 in Missouri:

  • No jail time (for first-time offenders)
  • $500 fine
  • Conviction for stealing will show up on your permanent criminal record

For more information, read my blog post, “How To Avoid Jail Time For Shoplifting.”

What Happens If You Plead Guilty To Shoplifting?

It is common for a police officer to tell a shoplifter that a shoplifting ticket is not a serious crime. The officer may advise the shoplifter to pay the fine so they won’t have to appear in court.

However, if you pay the fine, you are pleading guilty as charged and a conviction for stealing will show up on your permanent criminal record. That means every time a potential employer runs a criminal background check on you, they will see the conviction and probably won’t hire you.

Having a conviction for stealing can cause problems in the following situations:

  • Applying for a job or internship
  • Trying to rent an apartment
  • Applying for a loan from a bank
  • Obtaining federal financial aid for college
  • Getting (and keeping) your federally subsidized housing.

Store Employees Can Legally Detain Shoplifters

Employees and security guards in Missouri stores can legally detain a suspected shoplifter while they determine if you stole from them. (If they detain you for too long, they risk being charged with false imprisonment.)

Some store managers don’t call the police, but will make a shoplifter sign an agreement to pay for the damages related to the shoplifting. This is called a civil demand.

You Don’t Have To Pay The Civil Demand Fine For Shoplifting

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.

If the police let you go (regardless of whether they give you a shoplifting ticket), you will most likely receive a “Civil Demand Letter” in the mail from the store’s attorney. The letter will say that you owe the store $250 to reimburse them for their expenses. Those expenses supposedly include re-stocking the item you stole or paying the salary for their security guards.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys usually advise their clients to not pay the civil demand fine.

For more information about what happens if you refuse to pay the civil demand fine, read my blog post, “How To Get Your Shoplifting Ticket Dismissed or Reduced to Littering.”

Stores Can Legally Sue Shoplifters In Civil Court

If a shoplifter refuses to pay the civil demand, the store can sue the shoplifter in civil court for a maximum of $250 to reimburse the store for their expenses related to the theft. The store can also demand that the shoplifter pay for the store’s attorney fees.

PLEASE NOTE:  Stores send out civil demand letters that are worded in a way to make shoplifters think that they already owe the $250 to the store. However, you don’t owe anything to the store unless they sue you in civil court and win a judgment against you.

Stores almost never sue a shoplifter for misdemeanor stealing (under $500). The reason for this is that the cost to file the lawsuit, go to court, and try to collect on the judgment is much more than the $250 they could win.

Stores Can Ban Shoplifters From Entering Their Stores In The Future

In addition to the civil demand, many stores will also ban a shoplifter from ever entering their store again. Sometimes it’s just a 1-year ban from a particular store, but it could be a ban from all stores in that chain. For example, you might have been caught shoplifting at Walmart in one city, but the store’s manager can ban you from entering any Walmart in the United States. If you violate the ban, the store can have you arrested for trespassing.

What Can You Do If You Already Pleaded Guilty To Shoplifting?

If you pleaded guilty instead of hiring an attorney to get your shoplifting ticket reduced or dismissed, you may be able to change your mind and withdraw your guilty plea.

Your first step would be to hire an attorney to file a motion with the court to withdraw your guilty plea. The judge will decide whether to let you withdraw your plea. Then your attorney can negotiate with the Prosecutor to get your shoplifting charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering.”

The judge will refuse to let you withdraw your plea if too much time has passed since you pleaded guilty, or if you had an attorney representing you when you pleaded guilty.

You should consult an experienced attorney to discuss your case and determine the likelihood of success before attempting to withdraw your plea.

A Shoplifting Conviction Can Be Expunged From Your Criminal Record

If it’s too late to withdraw your guilty plea and get your shoplifting ticket dismissed or reduced, you might be able to get the conviction expunged.

Missouri’s expungement law changed in 2019, so stealing convictions are now eligible to be expunged. You must have a clean criminal record for 3 years following the date when you pleaded guilty to shoplifting before you can file a petition for expungement.

To request expungement of a conviction, you or your attorney must file a petition with the court and appear before the judge at a hearing. The proper parties must be notified of the hearing so they have an opportunity to testify against you if they object to the expungement of your stealing conviction.

Here is a link to the expungement form you will have to file to petition the court for expungement of your conviction. Technically, you can file a petition for expungement yourself without an attorney. However, it’s a complicated process and you have a much better chance of success if you hire an attorney to handle it for you. You will have to pay a filing fee and send notification to all the proper parties, and if your petition fails, you will have to wait a year to re-file and pay the filing fee again.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Lawyer For Your Shoplifting Ticket?

You can consult a criminal defense attorney to get a flat-fee price quote for how much they will charge to represent you for your shoplifting ticket.

Most criminal defense attorneys offer a free consultation and can give you an estimate of what will happen with your case.

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If you need help with your shoplifting ticket, contact St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or [email protected] for a free consultation.

Shoplifting – What To Do If You Get Caught Stealing

shoplifting ticket

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.