This post begins a new series on this blog. Each week I am going to feature two new crimes – a Mississippi state crime on Monday and a federal crime on Friday. I will define each crime, discuss the possible punishments, and hopefully provide some useful information. Don’t hold your breath each Monday and Friday, though; I’ve got several big trials coming up and I may have to skip a post or two. If you’ve got something specific you’d like me to cover please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we are going to discuss the offense of shoplifting. You don’t have to be a legal scholar to understand what shoplifting is – shoplifting is taking (stealing, pilfering, ganking, deboing, jacking, thieving, pinching, plundering, swiping, confiscating) something from a store without paying for it. The prosecutor must show that you meant to steal the merchandise, and this “intent to steal” is presumed if you:
- conceal the merchandise;
- take the merchandise from the premises of the store;
- alter, swap, or remove the pricetags on the merchandise;
- transfer the merchandise from one container to another (a number of people get caught because they accidentally put something in their purse instead of their shopping basket); or
- cause the cash register or scan device to ring up a price that is less than the stated price of the merchandise.
Shoplifting is a misdemeanor if the price of the merchandise is less than $500.00, and it is a felony if more than $500.00. First offense misdemeanor shoplifting carries a punishment of a fine of not more than $1000.00 and up to six months in jail. Second offense misdemeanor shoplifting carries the same penalties. For a third offense, the offense then becomes a felony, and the punishments increase to a fine of not more than $5000.00, and imprisonment of up to five years.
If the price of the merchandise is over $500.00, the first offense is a felony, and is punished according to the laws regarding grand larceny, which carries a punishment of a fine of up to $10,000.00 and imprisonment for a term not to exceed ten years for a first offense.
Other statutes in Mississippi make it a criminal act to remove a “theft detection device” from merchandise, or to possess or use a “theft detection device remover” without proper permission. It is also specifically against the law to aid and abet shoplifting by a minor, and the penalities for this are harsh.
Finally, in addition to the criminal penalties for shoplifting, there are civil penalties as well, if the “victim” decides to pursue them. For instance, if you are caught and convicted of shoplifting at Dillard’s Department Store in the mall, Dillard’s can sue you for $200.00, or three times the actual value of the stolen merchandise, whichever is greater. It does not matter if the merchandise was returned or not. They must give you 30 days written notice and an opportunity to settle up with them before they pursue this civil remedy, which is in addition to the criminal trouble you may be in.