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Shoplifting is a costly crime

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2023 | Criminal Defense

It’s a tough time to be a consumer nowadays. Thanks to inflation, the prices of goods have considerably increased over the past couple of years, just as the country started recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But you might want to reconsider if you think shoplifting would be a great way to acquire expensive products in this difficult time. Not only do you risk getting a criminal record for the act, but shoplifting can also cost you much in fines if you’re convicted. You might even end up paying more than the items you’ve stolen in most cases.

What counts as shoplifting?

The following actions are considered shoplifting per Rhode Island law. Some don’t immediately involve theft but are illegal methods to avoid paying the full price of an item:

  • Taking an item out of the store without paying or fully paying.
  • Altering or transferring an item’s price tag for a lower cost.
  • Transferring an item from one container to another to pay for less than its full retail value.
  • Taking a shopping cart away from a store.

State law also warns that if an individual conceals any unpaid merchandise on their person and attempts to take the hidden items out of the store, prosecutors could use the act as evidence against the individual.

The penalties

If a store calls over an officer, and the officer charges you with shoplifting, you could be facing a misdemeanor conviction. On conviction, you’ll have to pay a maximum fine of $500 or twice the full retail value of the stolen merchandise. A court might also ask you to serve a one-year prison sentence.

However, if the value of the stolen items was more than $100, or if you have been previously convicted of shoplifting, you face a felony charge. You’ll face a maximum $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison on conviction.

If you used specially-designed implements or clothing with hidden compartments to stash stolen goods in an attempt to steal merchandise, you could also face a felony conviction if an officer charges you. That’s a maximum $5,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence upon your conviction.

They say crime doesn’t pay, and the penalties for shoplifting clearly show why. Even accidentally taking an unpaid item out of the store can get you into trouble. If you face shoplifting charges, consider reviewing your legal options.