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Shoplifting Charges in Massachusetts: FAQs

When application of the law meets allegations of retail theft, the outcome is seldom simple. Massachusetts is known for its tough laws and rigorous enforcement efforts. This holds true when it comes to accusations of shoplifting. It is important for anyone facing these types of allegations realize this seemingly straightforward act of taking merchandise without payment is, in fact, a complex legal issue with significant consequences.

The Commonwealth’s stance on shoplifting is uncompromising, designed to protect businesses and maintain order. In this article, we will discuss some of the most commonly asked questions about shoplifting charges in Massachusetts and the potential impact they hold for individuals accused of a violation.

How does Massachusetts law define shoplifting?

In Massachusetts, shoplifting includes but is not limited to the act of intentionally taking merchandise without paying for it. It also covers switching price tags, consuming an item without paying, or transferring goods into different containers with the intent of depriving the merchant of the item’s full value.

What are the penalties for a shoplifting conviction?

Shoplifting charges can range from minor to severe, depending on the value of the stolen goods and the individual’s criminal history. Penalties can include:

  • Criminal charges: Charges range from misdemeanors to felonies.
  • Incarceration: Jail time varies based on the offense severity.
  • Fines: The court may impose fines in addition to or instead of jail time.
  • Record: A conviction can result in a criminal record.

The severity of penalties are generally based on the value of the merchandise in question. Merchandise valued under $250 generally results in a fine of up to $250 while merchandise over $250 can lead to fines as well as imprisonment. Considering a smartphone can have a value of thousands of dollars, it is easy to see how the penalties can quickly escalate.

It is also important to note that penalties can extend beyond the criminal. Civil penalties can also apply. Retailers, for example, may demand additional civil damages.

What should I do if I or someone I love is accused of shoplifting?

Those facing a shoplifting charge in Massachusetts are wise to take the matter seriously. Review the basics of the charges and begin to build a defense. A failure to take action can result in unforeseen consequences as prosecutors will likely push for an increase in penalties and may even try for additional criminal charges.

When building a defense it is wise to acknowledge that this area of law is evolving. Recent reports show business owners are voicing frustration over current laws and pushing for lawmakers to increase the penalties that come with this crime. We will provide updates if these efforts are successful. This push serves as a reminder of the need to seek legal counsel who stays up to date on the changes of the law and can tailor a defense strategy to your specific situation.


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