6.14.10 Criminal Defense Newsletter


In past newsletters, we have learned about some very serious crimes that have serious consequences for both the victims and the perpetrators. In this week’s newsletter, we are going to learn about a crime that is not that serious. This week’s crime is shoplifting. Shoplifting is an interesting crime because it is committed by people of all ages and lifestyles; from children stealing candy from the corner store to adults stealing clothing from a shopping mall. Shoplifting is also interesting because many people who shoplift are never caught and prosecuted. In any event, this week we are going to learn about the different ways that an individual can be convicted of shoplifting and how an individual can be punished.

In the Commonwealth, shoplifting is governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30A. Unlike most crimes, there are many different ways for an individual to commit the crime of shoplifting. However, no matter how someone is convicted of the crime, the Commonwealth must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many different ways for an individual to be convicted of shoplifting because there are many different ways to steal merchandise from a store. The legislators who drafted the statute made certain to cover all of the variations of shoplifting to prevent any loopholes in the law. As more proof that the statute is tailored to the interests of the merchants, it specifically provides that the statement of a merchant or an employee of a merchant that a person has shoplifted is probable cause for a law enforcement officer to make an arrest for shoplifting. This provision makes it much easier for law enforcement officers to make arrests.

The basic elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for an individual to be found guilty of shoplifting are that the individual intentionally took possession, carried away or transferred merchandise that was being displayed or stored for sale. The Commonwealth must also prove that the individual intended to deprive the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise without paying the merchant for its value.

Variations of Shoplifting

1. Shoplifting by Concealing Merchandise

One variation of this crime is shoplifting by concealing merchandise. Here, the Commonwealth must prove that the individual intentionally concealed the retail merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of its proceeds or converted it to his or her use without paying for it. Concealing an object is defined as covering an object to keep it from being seen or withdrawing it from view to prevent it from being discovered.

2. Shoplifting by Switching a Price Tag

A person may also be convicted of shoplifting by switching a price tag. In this instance, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual altered, transferred or removed a label, price tag, or other marking of the price of the merchandise. Then, it must be proven that the individual attempted to purchase the merchandise, either personally or through the help of another purchaser, at less than the full retail price. The individual must have the intent of depriving the owner of the merchandise of some part of the full retail value of the merchandise.

3. Shoplifting by Switching Containers

Another type of shoplifting is called shoplifting by switching containers. In this scenario, the individual intentionally transfers the merchandise from the container that it is in or the container where it is being displayed to another container in an attempt to deprive the merchant of all or some of its retail value.

4. Shoplifting by Ringing up a False Price

One more type of shoplifting is called shoplifting by ringing up a false price. An individual violates this variation of the law by intentionally ringing up or recording a value for merchandise that is less than its actual value.

5. Shoplifting by Intentionally Removing a Shopping Cart

Finally, an individual may also be convicted of shoplifting by intentionally removing a shopping cart from the premises of a retail merchant without the consent of the merchant and with the intent to permanently deprive the merchant of the shopping cart.


The punishment for shoplifting depends on the retail value of the merchandise that has been shoplifted.

If the retail value of the merchandise is less than $100.00, a first offense of shoplifting can be punished by a fine of between $50.00 and $200.00. A second offense can be punished by a fine of between $100.00 and $500.00. A third offense will result in a maximum fine of $500.00 and/or by imprisonment in jail for up to two years.

If the retail value of the merchandise is $100.00 or more, a conviction for shoplifting can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.00 and/or by imprisonment in the house of correction for up to two and a half years.

It should also be noted that if the value of the merchandise is below $100.00, the individual can only be charged with shoplifting under this statute. However, if the merchandise is worth $100.00 or more, the individual can also be charged with larceny under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30A.

An individual who is convicted of kidnapping can be sentenced to up to 10 years in the state prison or by up to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00. Kidnapping is a serious crime with serious punishments. However, if there are extenuating circumstances the punishment is increased.

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