Generally, shoplifting in Missouri will not be a felony. There are specific instances where shoplifting can be charged as a felony stealing, but these are rare. Most of these instances involve an offender with at least three prior convictions or an ongoing scheme that results in a large amount of property taken, often over multiple occasions.
Technically, it is impossible to be charged with felony shoplifting. Missouri state law does not have a shoplifting statute, only stealing. Many minor shoplifting cases will be filed as city ordinance charges. These cases are heard in the local municipal court and, if you hire an attorney, they can often be amended to a lesser charge like jaywalking. Click here for a more detailed treatment of ordinance shoplifting.
When Can Shoplifting Be a Felony?
Felony shoplifting must be charged under the Missouri stealing statute, RSMo 570.030. That statute provides that you can be charged with felony stealing if you have three prior stealing-related convictions in the last ten years or if the amount stolen is $750 or more. That amount can be arrived at by adding multiple thefts together even if they are from different stores at different times.
First-time shoplifting of an amount under $150 is a class D misdemeanor, punishable only by a fine. Many people are tempted to plead guilty. This is a bad idea. Stealing charges can affect your employment, schooling, and housing options and, more importantly, count as priors towards a felony charge. Just one conviction can make the next stealing charge a class A misdemeanor, punishable by jail.
Shoplifting more than $750 does not automatically result in a felony charge; this is up to the prosecutor's discretion. There are a few situations that make this more likely, including a long-running scheme with numerous individual instances and cases where the amount is significantly over $750 (such as jewelry or high-end electronics).
What Can You Do If You Are Charged With Felony Shoplifting?
If you are charged with felony stealing, you need to hire an experienced attorney. Any felony can result in prison time. As a criminal defense attorney with over 25 years of experience, Ruth Beerup has had success defending clients against serious charges. Give her a call today at (636) 940-1111 to see how she can help you.