One of the most common types of theft in the commonwealth of Virginia is shoplifting. This can be anything from sticking a pack of gum in your pocket to changing price tags on items to make them ring up cheaper at the register. Shoplifting is a form of larceny; because of this, it can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends on the value of the items you have been accused of stealing. Regardless of whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction means a permanent criminal record, which will be detrimental in getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting a security clearance for a government job. The merchant involved could also sue you in civil court to recover damages for your theft.
In short, a shoplifting conviction can have multiple negative effects on your life and future. There may be some options, however, for defending against a shoplifting charge. If you offer to make restitution quickly, you may even be able to have the charges dropped, or at least lessened. You need to consult a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with shoplifting cases; they will be able to advise you on the best course of action to follow based on individual circumstances.
Virginia Shoplifting Laws
Shoplifting is defined in Virginia Code §18.2-103 as willfully concealing or taking possession of goods (or altering the price tag on goods) from a store with the intent of converting to your own use without paying full price. This is clearly larceny, and it involves more than the traditional idea of what shoplifting is. When considering shoplifting, the first thing that comes to mind is the typical conceal and leave operation. The Virginia statute defines it far more broadly, to include simply swapping price tags on items to give the appearance that the item you are buying is cheaper than it actually is.The statute also clarifies that you can be charged for shoplifting before you leave the store. In Virginia, it is the simple act of concealing the item with the intent to take it for yourself that makes it shoplifting.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Virginia
In Virginia, if the value of the goods or merchandise is less than $200 it is considered petit larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor and punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.Grand larceny involves the theft of goods or merchandise valued in excess of $200. This is an unclassified felony, punishable by from 1 to 20 years in prison (according to Virginia Code §18.2-95). The judge or jury has discretion to sentence you to less than a year in jail and/or fines of up to $2,500.
Civil Consequences and Penalties
Virginia Code § 8.01-44.4 allows a merchant to sue for two times the unpaid retail value of the merchandise that you took, with a minimum judgment of $50. If the merchandise can still be sold, the judgment is capped at $350. You also will be required to pay up to $150 toward the merchant’s legal fees if they win the suit. The merchant also does not have to wait for a guilty plea in criminal court before starting a civil suit against you.
Legal Defense Options
The main focus in efforts to prosecute you in these cases is your intent; if you had no intent, the case should be dismissed. The notion that you deliberately changed the price tags on the items in question, or deliberately concealed merchandise with the intent to deprive or defraud makes it easy for the prosecutor to make a case, but there is still room for doubt if the concealment was accidental or a mistake. A criminal defense lawyer familiar with cases such as yours can look at the evidence and show you the facts that are in your favor and can help him in obtaining an acquittal. It is also possible that, if you are facing grand larceny charges, a simple challenge of the value of the merchandise could get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor from a felony and can drastically reduce the penalty you face.
Restitution and Repayment
Your lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to drop charges or reduce the penalties you face if you make restitution to the merchant, perform community service, and do not commit further offenses. The success of these efforts will depend greatly on the circumstances of the charge against you and any prior record you have. If this is a first offense, there is a much better chance of getting a favorable resolution to the case, especially if you are willing to make restitution to the merchant.
We Are Ready To Represent You!
In Virginia trial proceedings, it is highly recommended that you work with a qualified legal professional. If you are facing a shoplifting charge in Virginia, call The Brown Firm PLLC right away. Our criminal defense lawyers are highly experienced defending individuals in Virginia court. We offer free consultations to help you understand your case and your best options moving forward. Call The Brown Firm PLLC or send us a description of your case online to get started.