In Rhode Island, larceny (or theft) occurs when a person knowingly:
Rhode Island laws also identify a number of very specific types of larceny or theft offenses, including:
This article discusses the classifications that apply generally to stealing another’s property. Check out the state code for information on specific larceny categories. (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-41-1 et seq. (2020).).
Rhode Island classifies larceny offenses primarily by the dollar value of the property stolen. In certain cases, the penalties are based on the type of property (regardless of value) or the particular victim. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-5 (2020).)
If the value of the stolen property does not exceed $1,500, the offense is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year’s incarceration and a $500 fine.
Stolen property valued at more than $1,500 is considered a felony. The maximum penalty increases as the value of the stolen items increases.
Regardless of the value of the property stolen, it's a 10-year felony to steal a firearm, receive stolen property from a minor (younger than 18), or steal directly from a person.
Elderly victim. Rhode Island also makes stealing any amount from a victim age 65 or older a felony. For stolen property valued at $500 or less, the person faces a felony sentence of one to five years' incarceration and a $3,000 fine. If the property stolen is valued in excess of $500, the person faces a sentence of two to 15 years’ incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
(R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-41-5, -7 (2020).)
A person who steals merchandise from a store or business establishment faces both criminal and civil penalties. Civil penalties are meant to deter shoplifters and compensate store owners for the costs incurred to prevent and "prosecute" (sue) shoplifters.
Rhode Island law defines shoplifting as:
A crime is committed even if the shoplifter doesn't make it out of the store with the merchandise.
Shoplifting is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $50 or two times the full retail value of the merchandise, whichever is greater. If the offender shoplifted over $100 in merchandise and has a prior shoplifting conviction, the penalty increases to a felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-20 (2020).)
An adult or emancipated minor who commits shoplifting can also be held civilly liable to the store owner. The store owner can make a written demand for damages incurred (but not penalties), and the accused shoplifter has 20 days to respond. If the shoplifter responds and complies with the demand, the store owner must release the shoplifter from any further civil liability.
In lieu of the written demand or if there is no response, the store owner can file a civil action against the accused shoplifter for:
(R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-28 (2020).)
If you face theft or shoplifting charges, speak to a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, help you navigate the criminal justice system, and explain any consequences of a plea deal or criminal record. Even if the charges are for misdemeanor larceny, the consequences of a criminal record can impact your ability to get employment, housing, or loans. It's best to consult an attorney before accepting any type of plea deal or civil settlement (in the case of shoplifting).