Shoplifting Charges in Virginia

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

Shoplifting in Virginia 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.

Shoplifting Laws in Virginia

Shoplifting is punished as larceny in Virginia. Shoplifting is committed when a person commits actions such as taking possession of or concealing property, altering price tags, or transferring goods from one container or another, with the intention of defrauding the owner of the value or converting the goods without paying the purchase price (VA Code Ann. § 18.2-103). The criminal code divides larceny into two categories, petit larceny and grand larceny. Criminal and civil penalties for larceny are described below.

Shoplifting Criminal Penalties




Petit larceny shoplifting: Taking goods valued at less than $200

Class 1 Misdemeanor

Up to 12 months of jail time and/or a fine up to $2,500

Grand larceny shoplifting

Felony (or misdemeanor, at the discretion of the jury or judge)

If felony, between one and 20 years in jail

Civil Penalties

Merchants can sue adult and emancipated minor shoplifters in civil court to recover damages. If the merchandise is not recovered in sellable condition, merchants are entitled to two times the retail value of the merchandise, with minimum damages of $50; otherwise they are entitled to damages up to $350. The prevailing party in such a lawsuit is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs, up to $150.

Diversion Programs, Deferred Proceedings, and Plea Bargains

Some counties in Virginia offer diversion programs to individuals accused of first-time and low-level crimes as an alternative to prosecution. Upon performing the program requirements, which could include activities such as attending classes and meeting with victims, the criminal charges will be dropped.

Virginia courts can place certain individuals accused of first-time crimes on probation without entering a guilty plea. The court will defer further proceedings, and if the accused fulfills the conditions of the probation, such as performing restitution, the court will drop the criminal charges.

If a diversion program or first offender program is not an option, accused individuals may able to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Plea bargains typically involve pleading guilty in exchange for lesser charges or reduced sentencing, at the discretion of the prosecutor.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been accused of shoplifting in Virginia, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can assist you in exploring all of your options, including pursuing diversion and first offender programs, raising defenses, and negotiating plea bargains, in order to minimize the consequences of a shoplifting charge.

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