What is shoplifting?

Shoplifting is a form of larceny. Virginia law defines the offense as willfully concealing or taking possession of goods, altering the price tag or other price marking, or assisting another with the intent of converting the merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price.

If the merchandise is valued at less than $500, it is petit larceny; if it is valued at $500 or more, the offense is grand larceny.

It is important to know that simply concealing the merchandise while on the premises is considered evidence of the intent to take it (Code of Virginia § 18.2-103).

What is larceny?

Crimes involving the taking of property are referred to as larceny.

Larceny or theft is defined generally as the unlawful taking or carrying away of someone else’s personal property with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently.

In Virginia, petit larceny is defined as larceny from a person of money or other thing valued at less than $5 or larceny not from the person of goods valued at less than $500. Petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor (Code of Virginia § 18.2-96).

In Virginia, grand larceny is defined as larceny from a person of money or other thing valued at $5 or more, larceny not from the person of goods valued at $500 or more, or larceny not from the person of any firearm. Grand larceny is punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than 20 years or, at the discretion of the jury or court trying the case without a jury, jailed for a period not exceeding 12 months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both (Code of Virginia § 18.2-95).

A second offense larceny charge in Virginia is punished with at least 30 days but up to 12 months in jail and a third shoplifting or larceny conviction is a felony punished with up to five years in prison, regardless of the value of the items taken (Code of Virginia § 18.2-104).

Other forms of larceny outlined in Virginia code include:

  • unauthorized use of a vehicle (Code of Virginia §18.2-102)
  • embezzlement (money or property taken during the course of employment) (Code of Virginia § 18.2-111)
  • burglary (breaking and entering into the dwelling of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny) (Code of Virginia § 18.2-89)
  • receiving stolen goods (Code of Virginia § 18.2-108)

What are the consequences of shoplifting?

Shoplifting is illegal. Committing a shoplifting act can result in being charged with a crime. Consequences can include:

Jail time

Court costs and fines

Attorney fees

Civil liability to the owner for legal costs and for goods and merchandise, up to certain limits

Being banned from the premises of the offense

Other long-lasting negative effects on future prospects including employment and college
(Code of Virginia § 18.2-103)

What is a crime of moral turpitude?

Crimes that involve lying, cheating, or stealing are known as crimes of moral turpitude, meaning that they violate the agreed-upon moral standards of the community. Shoplifting and other forms of larceny are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

Once convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, that stigma is attached to your credibility in court. Besides the stigma of having a crime of moral turpitude on your record, being charged with shoplifting may negatively affect your ability to:

  • Obtain federal security clearance for employment purposes
  • Join the military
  • Obtain employment
  • Attend the college of your choice