Shop liftingA distressing and expensive experience

Being caught for shoplifting is a distressing and expensive experience with significant repercussions. You will have to deal with your family, pay an attorney, pay the store, and may end up with a criminal record. Most people feel shame and cannot explain why they did it. Usually, it is not their first time, but it may be their first time getting caught. A record for shoplifting will show up on future background checks, prevent you from being hired, and may affect your immigration status.

Serious consequences

Oftentimes a security guard at a department store has seen your actions on the store’s video cameras, and will approach you and ask you to come with him or her. Your possessions are searched and the police are called. You are likely advised to never return to the store. The police will tell you that they will seek a criminal complaint from the district court, and that you will receive a notice from the court to appear for a hearing. You will receive a civil demand letter from the department store requesting up to $500. Most people pay the fine, as paying may have an impact on how your case is handled by a court.

Hire an attorney immediately

When this happens, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. Don’t wait to receive the notice from the court, as your attorney will need to interview you, and if you did commit shoplifting, will need to find out what is going on with you that is causing the behavior. Your attorney will contact the store and police and find out the particulars. Your attorney will call the clerk’s office to determine if the clerk has scheduled a hearing before a clerk, or an arraignment before a judge, and make sure that he or she is available to attend the hearing. You should never go to a clerk or court hearing without an attorney.

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Shoplifting Criminal Fines

If you are found guilty of shoplifting by the court, you will be fined as follows:

Less than $100

Where the retail value of the goods obtained is less than one hundred dollars, for a
first offense by a fine not to exceed two hundred and fifty dollars, for a second
offense by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars
and for a third or subsequent offense by a fine of not more than five hundred
dollars or imprisonment in a jail for not more than two years, or both such fine and

More than $100

Where the retail value of the goods obtained equals or exceeds one hundred dollars,
any violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than one
thousand dollars or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than
two and one-half years, or both such fine and imprisonment.

Diversion Programs

If you are a first time offender, the court system may allow you to avoid a record, and I will work with you accomplish this. Moreover, you do not want to be a second time offender, so you should take all actions to make sure this never happens again. I encourage my clients to work with counselors and pastors to come to terms with and control their behavior, and consider what is going on with their mental health. There may be things going on in your life that are encouraging your irresponsible behavior. Sometimes I will set up appointments with the stores, so that you can apologize, and the stores will explain the impact your shoplifting has on the stores.

Your engaging in shoplifting is a very expensive event for all of the community. The stores have to hire more security guards, prices go up, taxpayers pay the police, and police are taken away from handling more serious crimes. The court system and district attorneys’ offices are paid for by taxpayers. When you add it up, the government, taxpayers and the community have spent thousands of dollars because you have shoplifted.

If you participate in community service, you are likely to feel better about yourself, and you are taking steps to prevent future irresponsible behavior. The court system generally appreciates an offender’s efforts to  make amends, and may work with you to keep you from having a record.

Useful Shoplifting Links

Massachusetts Shoplifting Statutes:


Shoplifting and Addictive Behavior Help