Shoplifting Laws

Massachusetts Shoplifting Charge Info

For an overview of Massachusetts shoplifting defense, see my complete and detailed shoplifting penalties page here.

Shoplifting Legal Terms

Asportation, Shoplifting by: Asportation simply means to carry away.

Civil Relief: Retailers often try to get you to pay them money (anything from $50 to $500) by threatening to sue you in civil court for the alleged damages you caused them. They may send you a letter in the mail from a law firm, or sometimes even print one out on the spot if they catch you. These letters, also known as civil demand, or civil request, are basically a shakedown and a scam. We recommend you never pay them.

Clerk’s Hearing: See Clerk’s Hearing.

Continuance Without a Finding (CWOF): An outcome in a plea deal that is an admission of “sufficient facts to find you guilty” but not a guilty plea. See my CWOF page.

Larceny: Larceny is the technical legal charge under Mass statutes.

PreTrial Probation:  An outcome that avoids a criminal conviction or any charge from showing up on your record. More on pretrial probation and other sentencing alternatives for shoplifting charges.

Show Cause Hearing: The same as a Clerk’s Hearing.

Shoplifting: The act of taking or stealing something, or otherwise attempting to deprive a retail store of the full value of their merchandise. This can also include tag switching to get a lower price than the item is marked form.

Summons: In many cases, a person isn’t arrested for a misdemeanor crime such as shoplifting, but is sent a summons in the mail to appear in court to face the charges in front of a clerk magistrate.  This can be a good opportunity for a lawyer to get the case dismissed, depending on the circumstances.

You can also receive a summons directly to an arraignment, which bypasses the show cause stage, and says they intend to charge you with a crime. The earlier we can represent you, the better your chances of avoiding a criminal charge. Sometimes we can avoid you being actually arraigned and charged with a crime, and work out a pretrial probation before this court date (see above).

Didn’t find the answer you were looking for? Feel free to call me, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Frequently Asked Questions about a Shoplifting Charge

Will I have a criminal record?

Most of the time we can avoid that, either by winning the clerk magistrate’s hearing, or working out a plea deal that avoids a criminal record. There are no guarantees but our record of success is very good.

Do I have to pay for merchandise I didn’t get away with?

No, but they may later threaten you via civil notification, which you should not pay (see Civil Relief above).

Is it legal for them to have kept me at the store?

Yes. They do have the authority to detain you briefly.

Will I lose my job for something like this?

That is between you and your employer, but we will do everything to help you avoid a criminal record, which is what most people are worried about, with regard to current and future employment.

Will my kids be taken away?

Almost certainly not over a simple shoplifting charge, unless it is an extreme case, or there are other circumstances.

But police officers may threaten or intimidate you. We’ve had clients this has happened to – when they were alleged to have shoplifted with their children present. An officer once told a poor scared mom that he could charge her with child endangerment and have her kids taken way, which is a TERRIBLE, bullying thing for a cop to say, and it’s a lie.

Who will be able to see I have a record?

If you have a misdemeanor shoplifting conviction or an open case (pending or CWOF), that will show on a CORI report, which is accessible by employers and landlords.

I never left the store, how can they prove I was shoplifting?

Most of the time they have video or an eyewitness. But if the facts are at all questionable or in doubt, we can use that at trial, or cite the lack of evidence as a reason for the case to be dismissed, either at a clerk’s hearing or a later court date via a Motion to Dismiss hearing.

Free Legal Consultation on Massachusetts Shoplifting Laws

I travel to courts across the state to defend clients accused of criminal charges like shoplifting and larceny at clerk magistrate’s hearings, arraignments, and trials.

I am proud to help people find solutions to criminal legal issues and find themselves in difficult, embarrassing, and often scary circumstances.

I know you are worried about what will happen to you. But very often we can help, and it’s not nearly as bad as you think.

I will defend your rights and freedom on charges of shoplifting, larceny and many other criminal charges. If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, shoplifting by asportation or another criminal offense, and need someone who will fight for your rights, call me today.

I can absolutely help.

By calling, you have nothing to lose. I’ll be happy to talk with you and discuss your case before you decide if you want to hire me.

Defending people accused of crimes is what we do at the Law Offices of Russell Matson, and we are proud to do it. Call to set up a free consultation now.