Wyoming Laws on Theft and Shoplifting

Stealing property, merchandise, or services valued at $1,000 or more can mean a 10-year felony sentence in Wyoming.

In 2020, Wyoming consolidated several theft statutes—theft of property and services, receiving stolen property, shoplifting, and theft by false pretenses—under one theft crime.

To break it down, a person commits theft by (a) knowingly taking, obtaining, retaining, or exercising control over another’s property or services, (b) without authorization or by threat, deception, or an unauthorized transfer, and (c) the person:

  • intends to deprive the person of the use or benefit of the property or services
  • knowingly uses, receives, conceals, or disposes of the property or services to deprive another its use or benefit, or
  • demands anything of value as a condition for returning or restoring the property or services to which the person has no legal claim over.

(Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-402 (2020).)

Felony and Misdemeanor Theft

Theft in Wyoming is broken into two offense levels—felony theft and misdemeanor theft.

Felony theft. If the value of the stolen property or services is $1,000 or more, the person commits a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The same penalty applies if a person steals (regardless of value) a firearm, horse, mule, sheep, cattle, buffalo, or swine.

Misdemeanor theft. A person commits misdemeanor theft by stealing property or services values at less than $1,000. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor theft is six months’ imprisonment and a $750 fine.

Shoplifting Penalties

Shoplifters who steal merchandise from a retail store can face both criminal and civil penalties.

Criminal Penalties

As noted above, shoplifting was one of the offenses consolidated into the general theft crime, with penalties based on the value of the items stolen. Criminal theft penalties apply whether the person takes the merchandise out of the store or not. A crime is committed once there is an unauthorized taking of another's property with intent to deprive the owner of the property. In the case of shoplifting, the crime occurs as soon as someone slips merchandise under a coat or in a bag intending to leave the store with it.

Wyoming also makes it a separate crime to unlawfully possess or use a theft detection shielding device (like a coated bag) or theft detection device remover (to take off a security tag) with intent to commit a theft. Both offenses are misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of six months’ jail time and a $750 fine. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-411 (2020).)

Civil Penalties

A person who shoplifts is also civilly liable to the store owner or merchant for:

  • the full retail value of the property, if not returned in the original condition
  • a civil penalty of double the retail value (not less than $50 or more than $1,000), and
  • reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

Civil liability applies to shoplifters older than age 10. If the person is a minor, the parents or guardians are liable for the above damages. An action under this section is filed in civil court by the shop owner (not the prosecutor, as is done in criminal court.)

(Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-127 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with theft or shoplifting, speak with a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can help navigate you through the criminal justice system, explain your options and defenses, and protect your rights. Even if the charges are for a misdemeanor, it can help to seek advice from an attorney. A criminal record for theft can follow you for years, making it difficult to get a job, housing, or a loan.

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