Many people see the crime of shoplifting as a very minor one, with few repercussions or penalties. In fact, if you are convicted of shoplifting in the state of Mississippi, you could face serious consequences, even finding yourself behind bars. In other words, your life, both present and future, can be altered in ways you may not have imagined when you shoplift an item. As many as ten million people have been caught shoplifting over the past five years—while about a quarter of those were teens or children, the vast majority were adults.
When you consider the most common shoplifted items include baby formula and meat, it seems as though many shoplifters may truly be taking items they did not pay for out of financial need. Most people who are caught shoplifting really had no intention of committing a crime when they entered the store. Some people shoplift out of financial need, others on impulse, and still others honestly meant to pay for the item—it was truly an accident when they walked out of the store with the unpaid item. Whatever the reasons behind the shoplifting incident, you need a Mississippi attorney who can work hard on your behalf to minimize the potential consequences.
What Constitutes Shoplifting in the State of Mississippi?
It may seem like there is no question as to what constitutes shoplifting, however some of the following definitions in the state of Mississippi might surprise you:
- Hiding any merchandise which has not been paid for
- Altering or switching a price tag to reflect a lower price
- Removal of an anti-theft device
- Changing containers for merchandise
- Taking any merchandise out of the store which has not been paid for
Mississippi Penalties for a Shoplifting Conviction
It is likely you are anxious about your future after being arrested for shoplifting, and probably embarrassed about the entire situation as well. To give you an idea of what you are facing, the penalties in the state of Mississippi for a shoplifting conviction include:
- A first-time conviction for shoplifting in Mississippi for merchandise valued at $1,000 or less could result in a jail sentence up to six months, as well as a fine as large as $1,000. You will also have to deal with a permanent misdemeanor criminal conviction on your record which can make it difficult to secure employment.
- For petty shoplifters, a conviction of three misdemeanor shoplifting charges during a five-year period will be treated as a felony, and can bring up to 3 years in prison.
- If the merchandise you are charged with shoplifting is valued between $1,000 and $5,000, you could face up to five years in the state penitentiary and a fine of up to $10,000. Shoplifting merchandise worth more than $1,000 is a felony in the state of Mississippi, meaning you will have a permanent felony criminal conviction on your record. In addition to finding a job more difficult, you could also be unable to secure a governmental student loan, or even rent a place to live because of such a conviction.
- For shoplifting merchandise worth $5,000-$25,000, you could face up to 10 years in prison, and a fine as large as $10,000.
- Finally, for shoplifting merchandise worth more than $25,000, you could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000.
- In addition to criminal penalties for a shoplifting conviction, you could also face civil liability to the merchant who can sue you in civil court. Under Mississippi law, that merchant can be legally entitled to three times the actual damages sustained, or $200, whichever is greater. He or she is also entitled to attorney fees and court costs incurred from bringing a lawsuit against you in civil court.
Eligibility for Diversion Programs
If this is your first offense shoplifting—and you have an experienced Mississippi attorney by your side—you may be able to avoid jail and keep the shoplifting charge off your permanent criminal record via a diversion program. A diversion program is a special type of probation which may include restitution and community service in return for a dismissal of your charges, and a clean record. If no diversion program is available to you, your attorney may still be able to plea bargain your charges down, resulting in less severe penalties.
If you have been charged with the crime of shoplifting in the state of Mississippi, it is imperative you speak to an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will fully understand how stressful these charges are, and will do his or her best on your behalf to reduce the potential consequences of your shoplifting charges.
Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or someone you love is arrested and charged with shoplifting or another property crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Jackson, Mississippi criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights and your freedom.
At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. NO matter how serious the charges may be, we can help you fight them. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.