Shoplifting Charges in Massachusetts

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

Shoplifting in Massachusetts is a crime with serious penalties, including potential fines and jail time. In addition to facing criminal penalties, shoplifters can be sued by merchants in civil court to recover damages.

Massachusetts Shoplifting Laws

Shoplifting is defined broadly in Massachusetts to include:

  • taking possession of merchandise without paying for it;
  • concealing merchandise in a retail establishment;
  • altering or changing price tags; or
  • moving merchandise into different containers
  • in order to deprive the merchant of the value of the merchandise.

Removing shopping carts from a store also constitutes shoplifting.

Merchants can detain suspected shoplifters in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable amount of time, and Massachusetts law enforcement officers can arrest suspected shoplifters without an arrest warrant if they have probable cause. Shoplifters face criminal penalties as well as civil lawsuits by merchants for damages, as described below.

Massachusetts Shoplifting Criminal Penalties

Charge

Classification

Penalty

Shoplifting goods valued at less than $100 with no prior offenses

Shoplifting under section 30(A)

A fine up to $250

Shoplifting goods up to $100 with one prior offense

Shoplifting under section 30(A)

A fine between $100 and $500

Shoplifting goods up to $100 with two or more prior offenses

Shoplifting under section 30(A)

Jail time up to two years and/or a fine up to $500

Shoplifting goods valued at $100 or more

Shoplifting under section 30(A)

Jail time up to two-and-a-half years and/or a fine up to $1,000

Civil Penalties

Merchants in Massachusetts can sue shoplifters in civil court for damages between $50 and $500, plus actual damages.

Pretrial Diversion Programs and Plea Bargaining

Massachusetts offers pretrial diversion programs to certain individuals accused of first-time and low-level crimes, especially juveniles and young adults, in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Diversion generally requires the accused to make restitution and to complete other requirements like community service or a term of probation. The criminal charges will be dropped when the program requirements are fulfilled.

If diversion is not an option, the accused may be able to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor assigned to the case. A plea bargain typically involves an offender receiving lesser charges or lighter sentencing in return for a guilty plea.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been charged with shoplifting in Massachusetts, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney can provide you with assistance in choosing the best way to respond, such as pursuing a diversion program, raising defenses, or negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor, in order to achieve a favorable outcome in your case.

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