Help for your Five Finger Discount Charge


Shoplifting remains one of the most common criminal charges there are, and it is one of those things most people have done in their lives even if it's by accident. It is for this reason that retailers are being hyper vigilant in snuffing out shoplifting in their stores, and requesting that all those who are caught be criminally prosecuted.

Massachusetts defines shoplifting broadly. Section 30A of Chapter 266 of the Mass. General Laws provides that someone who either:

  • conceals merchandise (also called "asportation")
  • changes price tags
  • removes price tags
  • transfers merchandise from one display or container to another
  • removes a shopping cart from the premises without permission

with the intent to deprive the store of the full value of the item has committed shoplifting. The prosecutor does not need to show that you left the store in order to prove their case, either. Intent may be proven by a person merely placing an item in their pocket or purse and walking beyond a register or towards an exit. In fact, a majority of cases involve clients who never reached the doors of the store before being apprehended by store security.


Shoplifting is a misdemeanor offense.

Total less than $100

1st Offense -  up to $250 fine

2nd Offense - $100 - $500 fine

3rd+ Offense - up to $500 fine or up to 2 years in jail, or both

Total equals, or is more than $100

Any violation - a fine up to $1,000 or by imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2.5 years, or by both fine and imprisonment.

Typically, only the more serious violations by continuous offenders will earn a person time in jail, but a shoplifting charge can have significant consequences other than jail. A negative outcome in your case could affect employment and housing opportunities. A conviction for shoplifting can even have serious immigration consequences. The attorneys at Equitas Law, LLP are adept at properly handling shoplifting cases, ensuring that each case receives the best possible result. Most of our clients facing shoplifting charges see their cases dismissed! Contact the attorneys at Equitas Law for a free evaluation of your case.

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It can be an important fact, but just because you never got out of the store does not mean you cannot be charged with shoplifting. Shoplifting is a crime of intent, therefore, a prosecutor does not need to prove that you "did the deed" but only that you meant to. Prosecutors will look for facts like a person hiding merchandise under their clothing or in a handbag, combined with walking towards an exit or past points of purchase (check-out lanes) without paying in order to prove intent.

Yes. Massachusetts allows for "shopkeepers" (being store owners and their agents) to temporarily detain people suspected of stealing, only on the premises of the store. General Laws ch. 231 § 94B grants this privilege. Suspects may only be detained based on reasonable belief, by reasonable means, and for a reasonable period of time.

Shoplifting is an arrestable offense. Most times the officers involved will choose to cite the violators and have them summonsed to court rather than arrest them. Ultimately, however, the decision will be made by the officer(s) on scene. The decision to arrest may based on factors such as the amount involved in the alleged shoplifting, the person's criminal history, or even the store's desire to see the suspect arrested.

Sorry to say, no. Even if the police don't show up to the store if you are suspected of shoplifting you can still face criminal charges. Store security may still file a complaint with the police at a later time. Alternatively, the store may seek to file a criminal complaint themselves (a private complaint). In either case, you would be entitled to a Clerk Magistrate hearing to oppose the charges before the complaint issues.

If you are being accused of shoplifting, particularly from a large department store, often you will receive what is called a civil demand letter. Massachusetts law allows stores to seek damages from those who have stolen, or have attempted to steal, from their stores (from $100 to $500). These form letters will go out even if the store never experienced a loss of any merchandise. We almost always advise clients to ignore these letters and to not pay the demanded fee. Paying the fee would have no effect on a potential criminal case, and is no guarantee the store will not pursue criminal charges.

Massachusetts Shoplifting Attorney