Columbia Shoplifting Penalties
Shoplifting can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties vary and can carry a maximum incarceration period of anywhere from 90 days, for a theft under $100, to decades of jail time, for high dollar felony charges.
Additional penalties people could face include an extensive probation as well as collateral consequences including a lifelong criminal record. Shoplifting crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude, which could impact your life in many ways in the future, outside of the criminal arena.
If you have been accused of shoplifting, contact an experienced Columbia shoplifting attorney for assistance building a strong defense, and ensuring all lesser sentencing avenues are explored and pursued.
First Time v. Repeat Offense Penalties
First-time offenders for shoplifting offenses will often have the opportunity to maintain a clean record, particularly if the dollar value was low. Courts recognize that people make mistakes, and should not be penalized for the remainder of their lives for a minor criminal violation.
However, when a person has been accused of a second, third, or repeat offense, the courts will prosecute more heavily because they no longer consider these crimes isolated or a one time mistake. Repeat offenders can expect penalties to include incarceration, a lengthy probation period, and possible community service. Most significantly, those charged would have a criminal record indicating their conviction, which can be seen by a background check.
Additionally, those charged may be required to pay restitution to the owners for the dollar value of items taken. As well as, in some circumstances, pay the amount spent by the merchant to investigate a case and bring it to court.
Shoplifting any item or items with a total value over $1,000 is considered a felony in Maryland. The misdemeanor shoplifting charge is elevated to a felony theft charge if the business owner can identify the value of items taken as having a total sum of over $1,000.
Alternative Columbia Sentencing
Columbia shoplifting offenses and other criminal charges will be heard by the Howard County court system. Generally, if a person is charged with misdemeanor theft and it is their first offense, the prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges unless there is something egregious about the case.
Usually those charges will be through a diversion program. This will give the defendant an opportunity to participate in community service or some other activity, in exchange for a complete dismissal of the charges brought against them.
If the defendant is facing a second or subsequent offenses, diversion will often not be offered. However, most prosecutors will not seek incarceration for a second minor shoplifting offense. In these situations a prosecutor may pursue an option to offer probation as the resolution of their case. More serious, repeat offenses will lead to more significant periods of incarceration.
Benefit of a Local Attorney
Having an attorney by your side can assist you in negotiating proper resolution for the case, whether it be diversion to have charges dismissed, or some other resolution which may be favorable to a client.
An attorney will assist in evaluating evidence brought against you, to see whether it is sufficient and the state will be able to go forward, or be forced to dismiss charges for lack of sufficiency of criminal evidence.