Shoplifting Offense

SHOPLIFTING

Firstly, what shoplifting-related offenses exist under Massachusetts’s law?

Under Commonwealth law, a defendant can be charged with ANY of the following shoplifting-related offenses:

  • Shoplifting
  • Concealing merchandise shoplifting
  • Shoplifting by switching a price tag
  • Switching containers shoplifting
  • Shoplifting by ringing up a false price
  • Removing a shopping cart

Secondly, what does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting”?

Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by a store or other retail merchant, with the intention of depriving the merchant of its possession, use or benefit or converting it to his or her use without having paid the merchant its value, shall be punished.”

In other words, a person who intentionally (ONE OR MORE):

  • Takes possession of
  • Carries away
  • Transfers
  • Causes to be carried away or transferred

…ANY merchandise (ONE OR MORE):

  • Displayed
  • Held
  • Stored
  • Offered for sale

…by a store or other retail merchant, with the intention of (ONE OR MORE):

  • Depriving the merchant of its possession, use or benefit
  • Converting it to his or her use without having paid the merchant its value

…is committing a crime.

Thirdly, how does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting”?

Above all, in order to prove a defendant GUILTY of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL of three following elements of the offense beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant intentionally (ONE OR MORE):
  • Intentionally took possession of
  • Carried away intentionally
  • Intentionally transferred
  • Caused to be carried away
  • Caused to be transferred

…retail merchandise.

      2.  That the merchandise was owned or possessed by someone other than the defendant

      3.  That the defendant (ONE OR MORE):

  • Took possession of
  • Carried away
  • Transferred
  • Caused to be carried away
  • Caused to be transferred

…that merchandise and did so (ONE OR MORE):

  • With an intent to deprive the merchant of its possession
  • An intent to deprive the merchant of its use
  • With an intent to deprive the merchant of its benefit
  • An intent to convert it to his or her own use without having paid full value for it

Fourthly, what does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by concealing merchandise”?

 Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally conceals on his person or elsewhere any retail merchandise, with the intention of depriving the merchant of the proceeds, use or benefit of that merchandise or converting it to his or her use without paying the merchant its value, shall be punished.”

In other words, a person who (ONE OR MORE):

  • Intentionally conceals on his person
  • Intentionally conceals elsewhere

…any retail merchandise, with the intention of depriving the merchant (ONE OR MORE):

  • Of the proceeds of that merchandise
  • The use of that merchandise
  • Of the benefit of that merchandise

…or converting it to his or her use without paying the merchant its value, is committing a crime.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by concealing merchandise”?

In order to prove the defendant GUILTY of the offense of “shoplifting by concealing merchandise”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL of the following elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant concealed retail merchandise on EITHER:
  • His or her person
  • Elsewhere under his or her control
  • That someone other than the defendant owned or possessed the merchandise

     2.  That the defendant concealed that merchandise (ONE OR MORE):

  • With an intent to deprive the merchant of its possession
  • An intent to deprive the merchant of its use
  • With an intent to deprive the merchant of its benefit
  • An intent of converting the merchandise to his or her own use without having paid full value for it

What does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching a price tag”?

Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally alters, transfers or removes any label, price tag or other marking for determining the price of retail merchandise which is being displayed, held, stored or offered for sale, and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in collaboration with another person at less than its full retail price, with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of its retail value, shall be punished.”

In other words, a person who intentionally (ONE OR MORE):

  • Alters
  • Transfers
  • Removes

…Any (ONE OR MORE)

  • Label
  • Price tag
  • Or other marking

…for determining the price of retail merchandise which is being (ONE OR MORE):

  • Displayed
  • Held
  • Stored
  • Offered for sale

…and attempts to purchase this merchandise personally or in collaboration with another person at less than its full retail price, with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of its retail value, is committing a crime.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching a price tag”?

In order to prove the defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching a price tag”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL four of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the price of retail merchandise owned or possessed by someone other than the defendant appeared on: 
  • A label
  • A price tag
  • Another marking

     2.  That the defendant intentionally (ONE OR MORE):

  • Altered
  • Transferred
  • Removed

…that label, price tag or marking from the merchandise.

     3. That the defendant (ONE OR BOTH):

  • Personally
  • By agreement with another person

…attempted to purchase that merchandise at less than the full retail price

     4. That the defendant did so with the intent to deprive the merchant (EITHER):

  • Firstly, all of its retail value
  • Secondly, some part of its retail value

What does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching containers”?

Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally transfers merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale, from the container in or on which it is being displayed to some other container, with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some of its retail value, shall be punished.”

In other words, a person who transfers merchandise (ONE OR MORE):

  • Displayed
  • Held
  • Stored
  • Offered for sale

…from the container in or on which it is being displayed to some other container, with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some of its retail value, is committing a crime.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching containers”?

In order to prove the defendant GUILTY of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching containers”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL four of the following elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Firstly, that the retail merchandise displays in or on a container
  2. Secondly, that the merchandise is in the ownership or the possession of someone other than the defendant
  3. Thirdly, that the defendant intentionally transferred the merchandise to some other container
  4. Fourthly, that the defendant intentionally transferred the merchandise to some other container with an intent to deprive the merchant of its full price

What does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by ringing up a false price”?

Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally records a value for retail merchandise which is less than its actual retail value, with the intention of depriving the merchant of its full retail value, shall be punished.”In other words, a person who intentionally records a value for retail merchandise LESS than the actual value of the merchandise is committing a crime, assuming the person has the intention of depriving the merchant of its full retail value.

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by switching containers”?

In order to prove the defendant GUILTY of the shoplifting-related offense of “shoplifting by ringing up a false price”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL of the following four elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Firstly, that the defendant intentionally rang up or recorded a price for merchandise
  2. Secondly, that the price rung up was less than the actual retail price
  3. Thirdly, that the defendant knew that the price rung up was less than the actual retail price
  4. Fourthly, that the defendant acted with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full price

What does Commonwealth law say on the shoplifting-related offense of “removing a shopping cart”?

 Commonwealth law states:

“Any person who intentionally removes a shopping cart from the premises of a retail merchant without the consent of the merchant at the time of the removal, with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of the shopping cart, shall be punished.”

In other words, a person who intentionally and without consent of the merchant removes a shopping cart from the premises of the retail merchant is committing a crime, assuming the person has the intention of permanently depriving the merchant (ONE OR MORE):

  • Firstly, of the possession
  • Secondly, of the use of the shopping cart
  • Thirdly, of the benefit of the shopping cart

How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of the shoplifting-related offense of “removing a shopping cart”?

In order to prove a defendant GUILTY of the shoplifting-related offense of “removing a shopping cart”, the Commonwealth must prove ALL of the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Firstly, that the defendant intentionally removed a shopping cart from the premises of a retail merchant
  2. Secondly, that someone other than the defendant owned the cart
  3. Thirdly, that the defendant removed the cart without the consent of the merchant
  4. Fourthly, that the defendant removed the cart with an intent to deprive the merchant of the possession or use of the cart permanently

Legally speaking, what is "retail merchandise”?

“Retail merchandise” legally means products or goods offered for sale in relatively small quantities directly to consumers. It refers to the type of merchandise sold in an ordinary store open to the public, as opposed to goods sold in bulk to merchants but not directly to the public.

Legally speaking, what does it mean to “conceal”, in the sense of “shoplifting by concealing merchandise”?

To “conceal” legally means (EITHER):

  • Firstly, to cover an object to conceal it
  • Secondly, to withdraw an object from view to prevent its discovery

“To conceal” is to take an action that either:

  • Firstly, makes it more difficult for the owner to discover the property
  • Secondly, makes discovery or identification of the property more difficult

Is larceny and shoplifting the same legal offense?

NO, larceny is a separate legal offense from shoplifting.

While originally Massachusetts’s courts held that theft of retail merchandise could be prosecuted under the shoplifting statute or under the general larceny statue (i.e. “larceny by stealing”), the rule has since been changed. Today, if a defendant shoplifts goods worth less than $100, he or she may ONLY be prosecuted for the offense of shoplifting and not larceny.

However, note that there is an aggravated punishment (i.e. greater punishment due to the seriousness of the offense in question) for the offense of shoplifting when the retail value of the shoplifted goods is $100 or more. The aggravated punishment is different from “larceny by stealing”.

Moreover, it is the burden of the Commonwealth to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the retail value of the shoplifted goods is $100 or more. 

In Conclusion: 

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A SHOPLIFTING AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES. 

sidebar_in_the_news

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.