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Your Guide to Understanding Virginia Shoplifting Laws

Whether you simply made a mistake or exercised poor judgment in shoplifting from a store, your situation is quite serious now you have been arrested for larceny in Virginia. Retailers will always press charges with help from police because of the substantial costs to their bottom line, so do not expect lenient treatment. The punishment for shoplifting can be quite harsh if you are convicted, which is why it is important to retain an experienced Virginia theft and larceny defense lawyer right away.

Still, it is important to understand the nature of the allegations against you and become familiar with the general legal principles. It may help to review this true-false guide and overview on shoplifting charges in Virginia.

TRUE: The Dollar Value of the Property is the Key to Shoplifting Charges. Virginia does not have a separate statute covering retail theft specifically, so the shoplifting is covered under a section on larceny and receiving stolen goods. Like many other US states, Virginia defines the offense according to how much the stolen merchandise is worth. Based upon the statutory threshold, the crime may be Grand or Petit Larceny.

FALSE: The Threshold Amount for Petit Versus Grand Theft is $500. Lawmakers often make changes to the dollar amount that separates Grand and Petit Larceny, and the legislature did take recent action in this area. As of July 1, 2020, police can charge you with Grand Larceny only if the value of the stolen property is $1,000 or more. This threshold amount had previously been $200 and was then raised to $500 before the latest version of the law took effect.

TRUE: The Penalties for Any Larceny Charge are Harsh. If you are convicted of shoplifting in a case involving Grand Larceny amounts, you face felony charges. A judge could order you to a maximum of 20 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of one year incarceration. Petit Larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor, so a shoplifting conviction for the lesser amount could lead to a sentence of 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, or both.

Note that, in addition to these penalties, it is also likely that the court will order you to return undamaged merchandise and/or pay restitution to compensate the store owner.

FALSE: You Can Only be Charged if You Physically Remove Merchandise from a Store. Virginia theft laws extend to additional situations beyond the typical shoplifting scenario, so you could still be charged for other types of misconduct. It is still considered Petit or Grand Larceny if you:

  • Willfully conceal goods;
  • Alter a price tag or markings;
  • Transfer merchandise to a bin with a different price; or,
  • Assist another person in accomplishing an act of shoplifting.

TRUE: Police Are Not the Only Ones Who Can Detain You. Virginia law allows a store owner, agent, or employee to detain an individual on the premises if any of these individuals has probable cause to believe that someone has shoplifted. However, you can only be held for less than one hour pending the arrival of a police officer. 

Contact a Virginia Theft and Larceny Defense Attorney Right Away

One of the most important takeaways from this guide on shoplifting is that retaining skilled legal counsel is essential if you are facing charges. A lawyer can fight for your rights by attacking weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, presenting any defenses, and developing other legal strategies to obtain the best possible result. To learn how our Virginia theft and larceny defense attorneys can help, please contact Shannon & Associates, P.C. today. We can set up a consultation to meet with you at our office in Chesapeake, VA.

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