Shoplifting raises the cost of doing business in Virginia. Every single day, hundreds of people steal goods from stores, causing thousands of dollars in losses. Like other states, Virginia criminalizes shoplifting, and anyone accused of the offense can face some stiff penalties.
At Invictus Law, we take shoplifting charges seriously. We realize many of our clients are facing time in jail and significant fines, so our Virginia Beach criminal defense attorneys do everything possible to get these charges dismissed.
How Virginia Defines Shoplifting
Virginia Code §18.2-96 is the larceny statute that pertains to misdemeanor theft. You can be charged with this statute OR shoplifting in a store larceny situation.
Virginia Code §18.2-103 relates to shoplifting specifically. As you read it, you will see that it is fairly comprehensive and seeks to criminalize a wide variety of behavior.
To quickly summarize, shoplifting is a form of larceny, which involves taking property from someone else without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the real owner of it. If someone lets you borrow goods, that isn’t larceny. It isn’t larceny to intend to use something very briefly, either.
Under Virginia’s statute, shoplifting consists of intending to convert goods to your own use without paying the full price and without authority to do so. It can include:
- Intentionally taking or concealing goods
- Changing the price tag or transferring goods into a different container
- Helping another person do any of the above acts
Penalties for Shoplifting
In Virginia, the penalties for any type of larceny depend on the value of the goods stolen. If the goods are worth less than $1,000, then the defendant can be convicted of simple larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. You can also be held civilly liable to the store owner if convicted. However, never pay any one claiming to represent the store owner to “drop charges”- consult an attorney stat.
If this is your first or second offense, you could face up to a year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500. If this is your third conviction, however, then you can be charged as a Class 6 felon and face up to 5 years in prison. If the goods are worth $1,000 or more, then you can be convicted of grand larceny facing 1-20 years in prison and a fine up to $2,500.
Evidence in Shoplifting Cases
With the advent of closed-circuit television, many shoplifting cases revolve around security video that captures a defendant putting an item in a purse, pocket, or bag. However, a shoplifting case is not as open and shut as the video might suggest.
For example, a key part of the law is intent—the defendant must intend to permanently deprive the store of the goods. As the law states, concealing goods serves as “prima facie” proof of intent. However, some concealment could be innocent or accidental. A store might not have any baskets, and the shopper needs to store something in the purse because their hands are full. In other situations, a shopper innocently removed a price tag because they didn’t understand what it was.
Defending against a Shoplifting Charge
The key is to not hand to the store proof that you were trying to steal the items. Under Va. Code §18.2-105.1, a store owner can detain a suspected shoplifter for an hour as they wait for the police to show up. During this time, the store might question you and even show you video of your actions.
As mentioned above, there are many possible explanations for why a person might temporarily conceal an item. It is vital not to admit guilt to the store or one of its agents. A suspect should also not admit to shoplifting to the police.
In all cases, there is the defense of mistaken identity. When stores are crowded, video might capture someone else taking the goods.
Call a Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Instead
Even a misdemeanor offense can have dramatic consequences, so we encourage all suspects to obtain legal counsel. At Invictus Law, we pride ourselves on providing an aggressive defense to all our clients. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.