Stealing property, services, or merchandise can result in serious penalties in Missouri. A person can face anywhere from a class D misdemeanor to a class A felony.
A person commits theft under Missouri law by taking the property or services of another without consent or by using deceit or coercion. At the time of the offense, the person must have no intention of returning the property. It's also theft to receive property a person knows or believes is stolen.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.030 (2023).)
Under Missouri law, theft and related offenses are primarily referred to as "stealing." Like many states, Missouri categorizes crimes as misdemeanors (which are less serious crimes) and felonies (which are more serious crimes).
Whether a theft constitutes a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the property or services taken, the person's criminal history, and, in some cases, the type of property. For instance, stealing dangerous items—such as firearms—constitutes a felony under Missouri law, regardless of the value of the property.
In Missouri, for a theft-related offense, a judge may order the fine listed in law or up to double what the offender gained in the offense.
Under Missouri law, it's a class A felony to steal certain property—a tank truck, tank trailer, rail tank car, bulk storage tank, field nurse, field tank, or field applicator—containing any amount of anhydrous ammonia (a chemical used to make methamphetamine).
The penalty for a class A felony is 10 to 30 years of incarceration or life imprisonment.
A person commits a class B felony by stealing property (other than those listed above) containing anhydrous ammonia. It's also a class B felony:
A class B felony carries a term of imprisonment of 5 to 15 years.
Stealing property or services is a class C felony if:
Conviction of a class C felony carries a sentence of imprisonment of 3 to 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
Theft is considered a class D felony under the following circumstances:
A class D felony carries a term of imprisonment of not more than 7 years, plus a fine of not more than $10,000.
Stealing an animal (other than those listed above) constitutes a class E felony that carries a maximum penalty of up to four years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
The law also makes a person's fourth stealing offense in 10 years a class E felony.
Misdemeanor theft in Missouri applies when stolen property or services are valued at less than $750 and the felony provisions above don't apply.
Class D misdemeanor. A first offense involving less than $150 worth of stolen property is a class D misdemeanor and subject to a $500 fine.
Class A misdemeanor. If the value of the property or services stolen is more than $150 but less than $750, the theft is a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor carries a term of imprisonment of no more than one year, plus a fine of no more than $2,000.
Any other theft-related offense that does not have an explicitly stated classification also constitutes a class A misdemeanor.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 570.030 (2023).)
It's a defense to theft under Missouri law that, at the time of the offense, the person had an honest belief of entitlement to the allegedly stolen property, or had an honest belief that the owner of the property, if present, would have consented to the person's appropriation of the property. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.070 (2023).)
Shoplifting or stealing of store merchandise can be punished with both criminal and civil penalties.
Shoplifting offenses fall under the general crime of stealing property. The classifications and penalties outlined above apply to shoplifting.
In addition to any criminal penalties, a person who steals merchandise from a store in Missouri will be civilly liable to the store owner for the following:
If the person who stole the merchandise is a minor, the parent or guardian who has physical custody of the minor is civilly liable to the store owner for the same damages listed above. A parent or guardian is not liable for civil damages if the parent or guardian has not had physical custody of the child for one year or more.
Furthermore, a person who steals a shopping cart from a store is civilly liable to the store owner for actual damages caused by the theft, a penalty of $100, and all reasonable court costs and attorney fees.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.127 (2023).)
If you've been charged with stealing, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can give you advice on how to protect your rights and help you navigate the criminal justice system. Being convicted of stealing—even misdemeanor stealing—carries consequences that extend beyond incarceration and fines. A criminal record can impact your ability to qualify for housing, loans, employment, and professional licenses.