How Serious is Shoplifting or Stealing in Missouri?
Under Missouri law, stealing is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the merchandise is under $500. Class A misdemeanors in Missouri carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one (1) year in jail.
Now, under Missouri law you can also be sued in a civil suit by the store that you allegedly shoplifted from. This usually begins with what’s called a “civil demand letter”. It will say you owe the store money for shoplifting goods.
Hiring an attorney is very important if you are charged with shoplifting or stealing. First, the attorney can often get the charge amended to a lesser offense, especially if you have no prior convictions on your record. Frankly, each court treats these charges completely different. In some courts, your best result, other than a dismissal would be probation. Specifically, an attorney can seek a SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) plea and probation.
As I have discussed before, if you receive an SIS no conviction is entered on your record if you complete the probation period with no further convictions.
Aside from where you received the charge, there are many other factors that are considered by the prosecutor. For example, are you young? Were you cooperative with security at the store? How much was the item you stole and what was it? Have you ever been convicted of shoplifting, theft or some other crime of dishonesty such as larceny or fraud?
Keep in mind that when officers write a ticket for shoplifting, they often will call it stealing under $500, just stealing or often theft (or even theft under $500). All of those descriptions would fall under the charge of shoplifting.
Again, it’s not a charge to be taken lightly. When employers do background checks, they are often forgiving of many mistakes people make like a DWI or other serious traffic offenses. But shoplifting charges, in their view, relate to your character and trustworthiness. If you’re a bank for example, how can you justify hiring someone who has plead guilty to a shoplifting charge?
That’s why it makes the most sense to hire a lawyer to represent your interests and protect your future. I’ve prosecuted these cases and defended them and that experience helps my clients.