Shoplifting is not just a prank or a dare you may have tried as a kid. Retail business owners lose millions of dollars a year to this form of theft. This does not include the amount of money shops and stores must budget for security measures such as cameras, electronic tags, additional staff training and security guards. Because of this, retailers are more likely to seek charges against anyone they believe has committed this offense.
State laws provide severe consequences for those convicted of shoplifting. Because the laws regarding shoplifting meet different standards in every state, it may help you to understand what is at stake if you are facing charges in Maryland.
What was your intention?
Shoplifting is a type of theft, but it includes a unique component that other theft offenses do not. You may face prosecution for shoplifting even if you never stepped outside the store with unpaid merchandise. In other words, if authorities believe you took and concealed an item with the intention to steal or in some way deprive the owner of the item, authorities may charge you with shoplifting.
Naturally, this could make it difficult to prove in a court of law because the cashier or store employee who saw you or viewed footage of you on a security camera may not have correctly interpreted your intentions. For example, you may be an environmentally conscious shopper who carries your own tote bags while browsing and in which you place items you intend to buy. You may have a small child in tow and use the child's stroller to hold items while you shop.
The consequences of a conviction for shoplifting depend on the value of the merchandise the store owner claims you took, or tried to take. You can expect to pay out much more than the value of the items. For example, an item worth less than $100 may result in a fine as high as $500 in addition to any restitution the court orders you to pay to the store owner. If you have prior convictions for shoplifting, your fines may be as high as $5,000.
Incarceration is also a possible penalty, as is having a felony on your criminal record. The higher the cost of the item, the more severe the penalties. Additionally, previous convictions for property crimes may also increase the severity of the penalties you face.