Even though it may not sound as serious as it is, shoplifting carries with it serious penalties such as jail time, fines, and potentially being sued in civil court.
In Minnesota, shoplifting is considered theft, and state law defines numerous ways in which theft is committed. One form of theft is defined as “taking or concealing property without consent or obtaining goods through false representation.” With respect to shoplifting, this can occur by leaving a store without paying for an item, altering the packaging of an item, and switching price tags to pay less for the item.
Shoplifting tends to increase during the holiday season, largely due to larger crowds and bulky winter clothing that make it easier to conceal merchandise. Even though it may not seem like it, shoplifting is a serious offense that can result in aggregated charges and sentences for repeat offenders.
Shoplifting in Minnesota can be a misdemeanor or a felony, and the distinction depends on the amount of property that was stolen.
Shoplifting property with a total value under $500 is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or fines of up to $1,000. If the property has a combined total value or $500-$1,000, then the crime is classified as a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fines of up to $3,000.
Felony shoplifting occurs if the property taken has a total combined value between $500 and $1,000 and the defendant had been convicted of another theft offense within the previous five years. Felony shoplifting can also occur if the property taken has a combined value between $1,000 and $5,000. In both cases, the defendant can be facing up to five years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000.
There are other felony shoplifting offenses that carry with them even more stringent penalties. Shoplifting property that has a total combined value between $5,000 and $35,000 or if the taken property is a controlled substance or explosive is a felony in Minnesota. In such cases, the defendant, if convicted, could face up to ten years in prison and/or fines of up to $20,000. Further, if the shoplifted property value exceeds $35,000 or is a firearm (of any value), then the defendant could face up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $100,000.
It is also critical to keep in mind that even if a person didn’t actually take the merchandise out of the store, s/he could still be charged with receiving stolen merchandise.
An aggregated offense
In Minnesota, shoplifting is a theft crime which means that if a person shoplifts more than once within a six-month period, the value of the items can be combined, thus potentially resulting in a higher charge and stiffer sentence.
For example, if a person shoplifted $800 worth of merchandise twice within a six-month period, they would be charged with shoplifting $1,600 worth of merchandise and, therefore, a felony instead of merely two misdemeanor charges.
In addition to criminal penalties, shoplifters may also face civil liability from the merchants from whom they stole. This could involve paying the merchant the value of the stolen merchandise plus punitive damages. If the shoplifter is a juvenile, his/her parents/guardians could also be liable to damages up to $1,000.