Surprise Felony: Retail Theft

Surprise Felony: Retail Theft

Criminal Attorney Fairfax VA

Surprise Felony: Retail TheftA fairly healthy percentage of the general public has either shoplifted or attempted to shoplift at one point in their lives, and as such, many seem to see it as a childish prank or mistake rather than an adult’s poor decision. However, state laws surrounding retail theft (as shoplifting is known in legal terms) can surprise many who get caught in the act, especially with how easily a ‘prank’ can become a felony with real consequences.

Value Matters

In determining whether to pursue charges, as well as to pursue charges of a specific degree, it is almost entirely decided by the value of the property stolen, as well as the methods used to leave the premises. For example, under the law, most minor shoplifting incidents would fall under the category of “theft of property not from the person” (that is, not stolen off a person directly), and if the theft was of an item worth less than $500, the offense will be a misdemeanor. However, if that same item was stolen directly from a person, the offense is labeled a felony. The former carries up to 364 days in jail (plus fines and supervision), while the latter is punishable by between two to five years of imprisonment.

Another factor in determining the nature of a retail theft charge (or if one should be mounted at all) is the alleged perpetrator’s past record, because in theory, a person punished for the same or similar offenses ought to have learned their proverbial lesson. While someone’s criminal record is not usually the tipping point between charging or not charging a person, it can be what is called an aggravating factor. Sympathy is understandably in shorter supply for a person who has been through the criminal process before.

Be on The Lookout

While in most cases, the relationship of an alleged shoplifter to a store or mall will be frosty at best, it will usually be because of the alleged crime. In rare cases, a store or chain of stores may attempt to extract more than is lawfully due from a convicted retail thief (or even from someone never convicted). For example, sometimes law firms will send what are called civil demand letters to shoplifters, alleging they are responsible for attorney’s fees and other miscellaneous restocking fees. Many states actually prohibit these types of actions, and they are also generally non-binding on the recipient. In other words, you are not legally obligated to pay any of the sums demanded.

It is, however, possible to be sued in civil court for damages surrounding a shoplifting incident. If this does come to pass, the defendant will be advised of it via a court summons, not a law firm’s letter – but it should nonetheless be taken seriously. Since these types of suits are civil in nature, no jail time is at issue, but very often, retail theft is committed by those who have little money, and a civil judgment may add to the person’s woes. Consulting a Fairfax VA attorney can enlist an ally who may be able to negotiate with the court.

Call a Criminal Attorney

Retail theft is a serious crime and can be classed as such even if the item stolen is of negligible value. The dedicated retail theft lawyers at Dave Albo – Attorney has worked on such cases in the past and is happy to try and assist with new ones to ensure that justice is done. Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation with a dedicated criminal attorney Fairfax VA clients recommend.


“David Albo is amazing – super professional and very knowledgeable. I highly recommend retaining Dave’s services. He went out of his way to ensure all of my questions and concerns were addressed. Very friendly and quick to respond.”
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