Shoplifting Charges in Iowa

Learn about the laws, penalties and civil consequences of a shoplifting charge in Iowa. Find out if you can avoid a conviction and criminal record.

Shoplifting charges in Iowa carry serious consequences, including possible jail time and fines. In addition, shoplifters face civil lawsuits by victimized merchants to recover damages.

Iowa Shoplifting Law

Shoplifting in Iowa is punished as theft. Theft can be committed in several ways, including by taking possession or control of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive that person of the property. The act of concealing unpurchased merchandise can be used as evidence of the intent to deprive the merchant. Tampering with theft detection-devices or using tools designed to deter theft-detection devices is also against the law in Iowa.

Shoplifters can be sued in civil court by merchants to recover money damages. Criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting are described below.

Iowa Shoplifting Criminal Penalties

Charge

Classification

Penalty

Theft in the fifth degree: theft of property not exceeding $200 in value with no more than one prior offense

Simple misdemeanor

Jail time up to 30 days; fine between $65 and $650

Theft in the fourth degree: theft of property valued between $200 and $500 with no more than one prior offense

Serious misdemeanor

Jail time of up to 1 year; fine between $315 and $1,875

Theft in the third degree: theft of property between $500 and $1,000 or theft of property worth $500 or less with two prior convictions

Aggravated misdemeanor

Jail time of up to two years; fine between $625 and $6,250

Theft in the second degree: theft of property between $1,000 and $10,000

Class D felony

Jail time up to five years; fine between $750 and $7,500

Theft in the first degree: theft of property exceeding $10,000 in value

Class C felony

Jail time of up to 10 years; and/or a fine between $1,000 and $10,000

Civil Penalties

Shoplifters and individuals who alter price tags to avoid paying full retail price are civilly liable to victimized merchants. The merchants can sue in civil court for:

  • the purchase price of unreturned merchandise;
  • actual damages for any decrease in the value of returned merchandise; and
  • $50 or the actual costs, up to $200, of recovering the merchandise or bringing the lawsuit, whichever is greater.

Diversion Programs and Plea Bargains

Some jurisdictions in Iowa offer diversion or deferred judgment programs to those accused of first-time and low-level crimes. Diversion programs generally require the accused to make restitution and complete a period of probation and community service. If the accused successfully completes the program requirements, the criminal charges will be dropped.

When diversion or deferred judgment is not available, the accused may try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor in the case. Prosecutors have the discretion to impose lesser charges or a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been accused of shoplifting in Iowa, you should strongly consider getting legal help. An experienced and qualified criminal attorney can help you explore your options, such as pursuing a diversion program, raising defenses, or plea bargaining with the prosecutor, in order to reduce the consequences of the shoplifting charges.

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