Maryland Shoplifting Penalties
Shoplifting has a reputation as a minor crime with minor consequences but that is not always the case. In Maryland, shoplifting penalties can result in paying fines, restitution, and even potentially serving jail time. A skilled theft defense attorney knows the law—not just having read and understood the statutes, but the case law that interprets what those statutes mean. This knowledge is critical when defending a client against charges of shoplifting in Maryland.
Penalties if Convicted of Shoplifting
Maryland shoplifting penalties typically depend on the value of the item or items that were allegedly taken. A charge involving less than $100 of merchandise is classified as misdemeanor shoplifting, and it carries a maximum penalty of 90 days. If a person shoplifts something of much greater value, the sentence could be up to 18 months or more, depending on what is taken.
The State of Maryland has a civil prosecution statute, which means that when somebody steals something from a store, the store can require them to pay restitution in addition to any criminal penalties. Certain department stores and larger chains utilize that civil restitution element in every single case. So, a defendant may not only receive their criminal charges but eventually, they may receive a letter from the attorneys for the store requesting a payment for restitution, often for an amount much greater than the value of the goods in question.
Shoplifting as a Felony
Shoplifting may be classified as a felony if the value of the items taken is very high. In addition, under Maryland law, the state has the option of pursuing a theft scheme charge, which means that on repeated occasions, the accused person took merchandise that did not belong to them. This enables the state to argue that the penalty should be significantly higher. So, if a person entered a store once every three days and stole a $100 worth of merchandise, those incidents could be aggregated under a theft scheme, which could end up being a felony.
Consequences for a Second-Time Offender
Typically, Maryland shoplifting penalties are a little more lenient on first-time offenders. A first offender will be able to participate in a probation and alternative sentencing program. A first offender is in the best position to potentially avoid having a conviction placed on their record. If a person comes into court on shoplifting charges and they are a second-time offender, there is an increased likelihood of them going to jail. If they have a prior conviction on their record, their sentence can actually be enhanced under the statute.
Probation and Reduced Sentencing Options
A lawyer will work to put their client in the very best position possible to get a reduced or suspended sentence, or a period of probation without time served. To achieve this, it is helpful for an attorney to learn about their client’s situation in advance of sentencing, such as whether the client needs to be participating in substance abuse classes or other treatment for mental health issues. If there is counseling the client should begin before they go to sentencing, doing so might make a judge more likely to grant a more favorable outcome for the defendant.
Role of an Attorney
An experienced lawyer can advise the defendant about what they can expect at every stage of the proceedings. They can also help a defendant determine whether it makes sense to have their case tried by a jury. Sometimes it can be incredibly valuable to have a case seen in front of a jury, instead of a judge alone.
An attorney is also can help their client understand the Maryland shoplifting penalties they are potentially facing, and how they might minimize those consequences. Prosecutors and judges have law degrees and have handled many of these cases. They use their knowledge and experience in the courtroom, so it is wise for anyone facing shoplifting charges to seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can act as their advocate.