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The Five Finger Discount − Shoplifting in the Criminal Courts

Last June, two people helped themselves to $1,000 worth of phone accessories, lighters and other items at a gas station convenience store. Another couple went to Target stores, working in tandem to lift over $800 worth of razor blades.

“Shoplifting” has become so common that it appears in police blotters almost daily. The behavior involved varies from carefully planned heists, to impulse taking, to mere forgetfulness.

What are the penalties for shoplifting and other thefts?

“Shoplifting” is theft. It is a misdemeanor petit theft is the amount stolen is under $1,000 and can be prosecuted as a felony if the amount stolen is $1,000 or more. The penalties for theft increase as the amount stolen rises:

  • Up to $1,000 (petty theft) – misdemeanor – up to 180 days jail
  • $1,000 up to $7,500 – fifth degree felony – 6 to 12 months prison
  • $7,500 up to $150,000 – fourth degree felony grand theft – 6 to 18 months prison
  • $150,000 up to $750,000 – third degree felony grand theft – one to 5 years prison
  • $750,000 up to $1,500,000 – second degree felony aggravated theft – two to 8 years prison
  • $1,500,000 or more – first degree felony aggravated theft – three to 10 years prison

The majority of everyday shoplifting cases almost always fall into the misdemeanor or fifth degree felony categories.

What can you do if you are arrested for shoplifting?

First, the prosecution needs to prove a theft actually occurred. Did you put an item in your pocket? Did you walk out the door and forget about it while paying for other items? Did you have enough money in your wallet to pay for the item? Was the tag still on the item, or did you remove it? Did you actually exit the store before being detained by store security?

If charges are pressed against you for misdemeanor or grand theft, you may elect to fight the charges in court or alternatively you may qualify for a pretrial diversion program. Ohio permits eligible people to “divert” out of the criminal justice proceedings and engage in a program of community service, counseling, restitution and other conditions, and if successfully completed, the theft charge is dismissed so you have no criminal record.

Not only do you face jail or prison and a criminal record for stealing from a merchant but you also face civil damages. The law allows the store to send you a demand letter for damages, and if you fail or refuse to pay those damages, the store can bring a civil suit against you.

If you or someone you know is arrested for shoplifting, then you should contact the highly regarded criminal defense firm, Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA whose experienced criminal attorneys have over a decade successfully handling theft cases.

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