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A teen girl shoving lipstick into her purse. A man trying on clothes and wearing them as he walks out of the store without paying. A kid taking a toy because he really wanted it. Or maybe a celebrity stealing something from a store when they could have easily paid for it.
These are the kinds of things many of us imagine when we think about shoplifting. It is a “minor” crime that takes little effort, causes little harm, and comes with few consequences.
U.S. retailers, not surprisingly, don’t see it this way, and it’s understandable why: retail theft costs them $30 billion every single year. For them, it’s a huge deal.
Here’s the thing: if you are charged, it could end up being a huge deal for you, too. It all depends on how much you are being accused of stealing. The important thing that you need to know is that theft charges do not have to be limited to a single incident.
What does that mean?
Let’s say you’ve been taking things from your local Walmart for a year. You don’t take much at any one time – probably less than $100 per trip. But you do it every week or so.
At the end of that year, you’re caught. For taking a birthday card for your mom, no less.
No big deal, right? After all, the card’s just worth a couple of bucks.
However, they find theft tools on you. First off, that’s another charge. Beyond that, though, it gives them reason to look through your stuff.
This is where things get really bad, because they uncover tens of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise.
So you won’t be facing some slap on the wrist for taking the greeting card. You’re going to have theft charges based on everything you’ve taken over the past year. That’s serious. How serious?
Here’s how our state breaks down theft charges:
|When the value of stolen goods is…||Charges are…||Penalties include…|
|Less than $50||Class 1 petty offense||Up to 6 months in jail; up to $500 in fines|
|$50 or more, but less than $300||Class 3 misdemeanor||Up to 6 months in jail, up to $750 in fines|
|$300 or more, but less than $750||Class 2 misdemeanor||Up to 1 year in prison; up to $1,000 in fines|
|$750 or more, but less than $2,000||Class 1 misdemeanor||Up to 1.5 years in prison; up to $5,000 in fines|
|$2,000 or more, but less than $5,000||Class 6 felony||Up to 1.5 years in prison; up to $100,000 in fines|
|$5,000 or more, but less than $20,000||Class 5 felony||Up to 3 years in prison; up to $100,000 in fines|
|$20,000 or more, but less than $100,000||Class 4 felony||Up to 6 years in prison; up to $500,000 in fines|
|$100,000 or more, but less than $1 million||Class 3 felony||Up to 12 years in prison; up to $750,000 in fines|
|$1 million or more||Class 2 felony||Up to 24 years in prison; up to $1 million in fines|
Going back to our “stealing from Walmart” story above, if you were found with tens of thousands in stolen goods, you are looking at a Class 5 felony charge at least. That means up to three years in prison and $100,000 in fines at a minimum.
Doesn’t look so minor anymore.
What can you do about it? If you are charged, do not take it lightly. Get a lawyer immediately. He or she will be able to make sure that the police, retailers, and others are following all of the proper rules and procedures that the law requires in their investigation. If they don’t, you may be able to use that to get your charges reduced – or possibly even dropped altogether.
It starts with reaching out to a knowledgeable Colorado shoplifting attorney, though. The sooner you have someone skilled on your side, the better your chances at a positive outcome.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.