Shoplifting a small item from a store may not seem like a big deal. However, since businesses and retail stores in Rhode Island lose millions of dollars of merchandise every year, if you are caught shoplifting, you face the possibility of jail time, fines, and a mark on your criminal record. You need a skilled Theft Defense Lawyer to protect your rights.
At the Marin, Barrett, and Murphy Law Firm our team of Rhode Island Shoplifting Lawyers understand how the prosecution approaches Theft and Shoplifting cases. We will thoroughly examine the details of your case and the theft charges you are facing, and I will take the time to understand you as a person. In every case involving theft, retail theft, employee theft charges or shoplifting arrest, my goal is to protect your rights and bring about a fair resolution.
Rhode Island Shoplifting Lawyers
Marin, Barrett, and Murphy Law Firm
Call Us Today For Experienced Shoplifting Representation 401-228-8271
Shoplifting can be a surprisingly complex charge – and once with significant consequences. With the potential of jail time, monetary fines, civil penalties, and even immigration consequences facing those accused of shoplifting, it is incredibly important to have a skilled attorney handle you case. At Marin, Barrett, and Murphy Law Firm we know these cases and we fight these cases – call us today and put us to work fighting your case today.
Representative Rhode Island Shoplifting Case
Charge: Misdemeanor Shoplifting (1st Offense)
Client: 24 Year Old Female with No Prior Criminal History
Results: Charge Dismissed and in the Process of Expungement
Case Summary: In March of 2017 we were contacted by a young man who was seeking assistance and legal representation. He was in need of help because his fiance had been arrested by a local police department and charged with misdemeanor shoplifting at Walmart. She was alleged to have walked out of Walmart with almost $300.00 worth of merchandise without paying for it. She had never been in trouble before, but was going through a difficult period in her life.
We recommended that she preemptively engage in some mental health counseling to reduce her stress level and begin to address the issues that had ultimately lead to her arrest. By the time that her case proceeded to Court, she had made great strides getting her life back on track. We were able to advocate on her behalf to both the Prosecutor and the Police and explain how her stressors had lead to this arrest. Additionally, we were able to provide them with documentation showing that she had gone out on her own and taken the steps necessary to address those stressors and get her life back on track.
Based on the steps taken by our Client and our effective advocacy, we were able to convince the Prosecution to drop the case (dismiss) based on a small number of hours of public, non-profit community service. Currently, we are in the process of expunging and sealing the case from her record. Soon, she will be able to move on from this negative experience in her life without having a permanent mark on her criminal record. Once the case is expunged, she will be able to lawfully state that she has never been arrested for or convicted of any criminal offense.
Representative R.I. Shoplifting Case Client Review Posted on Avvo.com:
Call Attorney Marin now to speak directly with an Experienced R.I. Shoplifting Defense Lawyer – (401) 228-8271
What constitutes shoplifting in Rhode Island?
Shoplifting is defined in Rhode Island General Law 11-41-20 and takes several forms. Shoplifting can be as simple as taking or carrying away store merchandise with the intent to deprive the merchant of the value of the goods. Under the statute, altering or switching labels or price tags in an attempt to pay less than full value for the merchandise, or switching a product from one container to another are both considered shoplifting. Even removing a shopping cart from the store or parking lot can be considered shoplifting under Rhode Island law.
What is the Rhode Island shoplifting statute?
Rhode Island General Law 11-41-20 is the general shoplifting statute and spells out all of the applicable definitions, examples of prohibited conduct that constitute shoplifting, and the applicable penalties. But like much of Rhode Island law, shoplifting is not as simple as it may seem on paper. There are all sorts of procedures that need to be followed by the merchant or shopkeeper that, if not followed, can help an individual defend him or herself against a shoplifting charge.
Are there defenses to RI shoplifting charges?
Absolutely. Like most legal issues, the specifics of every case are different, and those differences will determine which defense or combination of defenses are best. A common defense is that it was simply an accident. It may seem odd to think that someone could “shoplift by accident,” but it is not entirely uncommon, particularly if there is a self checkout where a lot of items may be scanned and it may not be clear what has and has not been paid for. Another defense is that the shoplifting was not actually completed. Rhode Island law requires the State prove that the shoplifter actually pass all points of purchase; it is not simply enough to show that an individual put goods in their bag or pocket while walking throughout the store. There also may be issues with the way a potential shoplifter is apprehended that can be used as a defense. Rhode Island General Law 11-41-21 provides strict rules for how shopkeepers and merchants may approach, search, question and detain a potential shoplifter, and those protocols must be adhered to strictly. If you or a loved one has been accused of shoplifting, call us today and let us perform a thorough examination of the case to find the best possible defense.
What are the penalties for shoplifting in Rhode Island?
The penalties for shoplifting are laid out in Rhode Island General Law 11-41-20(d). A first offense for shoplifting is a misdemeanor and carries up to one year a prison, a fine ranging from $50 up to $500, or both. If the defendant has previously been convicted of shoplifting and the value of the stolen merchandise has a value over $100 than the charge becomes a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. If the individual is convicted of a theft crime (including shoplifting) for a third or subsequent time, they are deemed to be a Habitual Offender under Rhode Island Law 11-41-24. Per the statute, habitual offenders “shall be fined not less than two hundred dollars ($200) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500) and shall be imprisoned not less than six (6) months nor more than one year.”
Do I have to pay civil restitution for shoplifting?
In addition to the shoplifting penalties laid out in 11-41-20(d) and 11-41-24, Rhode Island General Law 11-41-28 imposes a civil restitution requirement on individuals convicted of shoplifting. Under the civil restitution law, an individual convicted of shoplifting shall be civilly liable to the merchant for the value of the unrecovered or unusable goods, a $100 penalty, and court costs. Regardless of the value of the merchandise, shoplifting charges can become costly in a hurry: don't let a single mistake or slip-up cost you, call and put us to work fighting your shoplifting case today.
Is shoplifting a felony or a misdemeanor in Rhode Island?
First offense shoplifting charges in Rhode Island are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a monetary fine of up to $500. However, if the individual has previously been convicted of shoplifting and the value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $100, then it becomes a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. Additionally, under Rhode Island General Law 11-41-20.1 Use of implements in concealment, if an individual wears clothing or carries a device designed or adapted to conceal stolen merchandise, he or she may be charged with a felony and punished by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.
What is the Rhode Island habitual offender statute?
Under Rhode Island General Law 11-41-24, anyone previously convicted of shoplifting, and/or larceny, and/or receiving stolen goods may be deemed a “habitual offender.” Habitual offenders potentially face additional penalties to the shoplifting charge itself, including imprisonment of between six months and one year, a fine between $200 and $500, or both.
Can a shoplifting charge have adverse immigration consequences?
Yes. Under Federal Immigration Law, shoplifting is considered a “crime of moral turpitude” and can trigger removal proceedings. If an individual has a green card, work or travel visa, is undocumented, or is otherwise not a United States citizen, shoplifting convictions can trigger removal proceedings from the United States. These removal proceedings are in addition to the penalties applicable under Rhode Island law and Rhode Island has no control over the proceedings.
Can shoplifting charges be dismissed?
In some instances, yes. The decision to dismiss a shoplifting case, like all criminal cases in Rhode Island, is up to the discretion of the State or Town prosecutor. Occasionally a prosecutor may agree that there is not enough evidence to proceed or that there is some defect in the case and that justice requires that they dismiss it. More often though, when a prosecutor agrees to dismiss a case it is not because he or she doesn't believe in the strength of the case. But rather they agree with a defendant's attorney that the charge may be dismissed up completion of certain conditions, such as community service. Prosecutors are smart and they take their job and obligations seriously, so they do not just give cases away. You need an attorney who takes your case seriously, and is willing to negotiate and fight for the best outcome or you.
What is a no trespass order?
Oftentimes, when an individual is arrested and charged with shoplifting, the merchant will issue a No Trespass Order forbidding that person from returning to the store. In addition to the No Trespass Order issued by the private business, it is common for the Court to a No Trespass as part of the sentence in addition to other sanctions provided in 11-21-20. Subsequent violations of those orders can lead to new substantive criminal offenses and potential violations of probation.
Can you be charged with shoplifting even if you did not leave the store?
Potentially yes. Rhode Island is different from some other states in that the law does not require that you leave the store to be charged with shoplifting. Rather, you must simply pass all points of purchase with unpaid merchandise. More often than not the can occur when an individual passes the cash registers before they even make it out the door.
I feel like I was mistreated at the store, is there anything I can do?
That depends. Rhode Island General Law 11-41-21 governs what merchants, loss prevention officers, and shopkeepers can and cannot do when they believe an individual has shoplifted from their store. For instance, the law places strict limits on the manner and duration that potential shoplifter may be detained. The law also places certain requirements and limitations on the force used to stop, apprehend, and question a suspected shoplifter. Some of these laws are clear while others are more nuanced. If you or a loved one has been charged with shoplifting, let out experienced attorneys take an informed look at you case and help you put up the fight your case deserves.
Can you be charged with shoplifting even if you attempt to return or pay for the goods?
Yes. Once a potential shoplifter has passed all point of purchase without paying for goods in an attempt to deprive the merchant. Once the act is completed it is not enough to simply “give the goods back” or have a change of heart once apprehended. That said, attempts to do so may be useful to a defense attorney in fighting the case or negotiating a favorable outcome.
The merchant got all of the merchandise back, how am I still being charged with shoplifting?
Under Rhode Island law, once the act of shoplifting has been completed, it cannot be undone simply because the store received all of the goods intact. However, if the merchant was able to receive the goods in sellable condition, it may limit the restitution and civil liability for the defendant.
Rhode Island Shoplifting Laws
§ 11-41-20 Shoplifting.
(a) For the purpose of this section:
(1) "Conceal" means to place merchandise in such a manner that it is not visible through ordinary observation.
(2) "Full retail value" means the merchant's stated price of the merchandise.
(3) "Merchandise" means any items of tangible personal property offered for sale within a retail mercantile establishment.
(4) "Merchant" means an owner or operator of any retail mercantile establishment or any agent, employee, lessee, officer, or director of the owner or operator.
(5) "Premises of a retail mercantile establishment" includes the retail mercantile establishment, and common use areas in shopping centers, and all parking areas set aside by a merchant or on behalf of a merchant for the parking of vehicles for the convenience of the patrons of the retail mercantile establishment.
(6) "Retail mercantile establishment" means any place where merchandise is displayed, held, stored or offered for sale to the public.
(7) "Shopping cart" means those push carts of the type or types which are commonly provided by grocery stores, drug stores, or other retail mercantile establishments for the use of the public in transporting commodities on or from the premises of the retail mercantile establishment.
(b) Whoever shall engage in the following shall be guilty of the crime of shoplifting:
(1) Take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale by a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of the merchandise;
(2) Alter, transfer, or remove a label, price tag, marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment and attempt to purchase or purchase the merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of such merchandise;
(3) Transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment from one container to another in an attempt to purchase or purchase the merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of the merchandise; or
(4) Remove a shopping cart from the premises of a retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of the removal with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the cart.
(c) The fact that a person conceals upon his person, among his or her belongings, or upon the person or among the belongings of another merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment, for which he or she has not paid the full retail value, and the merchandise has been taken beyond the area within the retail mercantile establishment where payment for it is to be made, shall be prima facie evidence that the person has possessed, carried away, or transferred the merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or part of the full retail value of the merchandise without paying the full retail value of the merchandise.
(d) Any person convicted of the crime of shoplifting shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) or two times the full retail value of the merchandise, whichever is greater, but not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both; provided, any person convicted of the crime of shoplifting merchandise with a retail value of over one hundred dollars ($100) who has previously been convicted of shoplifting shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or both.
§ 11-41-20.1 Shoplifting – Use of implements in concealment.
Whoever shall willfully take possession of any goods, wares, or merchandise offered for sale by any store or other mercantile establishment, or whoever shall willfully conceal upon his or her person, among his belongings, or upon the person or among the belongings of another unpurchased goods, wares, or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment either inside the store or other mercantile establishment or outside, but in its immediate vicinity, with the intention of converting it to his or her own use without paying the purchase price, with intention of depriving the owner of all or some part of the value, while wearing any article of clothing, or carrying any implement of any kind specifically designed or adapted for the purpose of concealing, carrying away, or otherwise unlawfully removing any merchandise from a store, knowing the clothing or implement to be designed or adapted for that purpose, with the intent to use or employ it or allow it be used or employed for an unlawful purpose, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) or by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, or both.
§ 11-41-21 Shoplifting – Enforcement.
(a) Any person reasonably believed to have committed or to be committing the crime of shoplifting as defined in § 11-41-20 shall be subject to detention by a police officer in accordance with § 12-7-1.
(b) Any merchant who observes any person concealing or attempting to conceal merchandise on his person or amongst his or her belongings or upon the person or amongst the belongings of another, transporting merchandise beyond the area within the retail mercantile establishment where payment for it is to be made without making payment for it, removing or altering price tags on merchandise, or switching the containers of merchandise may stop the person. Immediately upon stopping the person, the merchant shall identify himself or herself and state his or her reason for stopping the person. If after his or her initial confrontation with the person under suspicion, the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe that at the time stopped the person was committing or attempting to commit the crime of shoplifting on the premises, the merchant may detain the person for a reasonable time sufficient to summon a police officer to the premises. In no case shall the detention be for a period exceeding one hour. Detention must be accomplished in a reasonable manner without unreasonable restraint or excessive force, and may take place only on the premises of the retail mercantile establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. Any person so stopped by a merchant pursuant to this section shall promptly identify himself or herself by name and address. Once placed under detention, no other information shall be required of the person and no written and/or signed statement, except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, shall be elicited from the person until a police officer has taken him or her into custody. The merchant may, however, examine for the purposes of ascertaining ownership any merchandise which is in plain view which the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe was unlawfully taken or otherwise tampered with in violation of § 11-41-20.
(c) A merchant may request a person detained for shoplifting to sign a statement waiving his or her right to bring a civil action arising from the detention in return for a signed statement from the merchant waiving the right to bring criminal charges based upon the alleged shoplifting. Any statement shall state in writing in large print at the top of the form that the person detained has a right to remain silent and a right not to make or sign any statement and a right to call an attorney.
(2) It shall be unlawful to circulate or cause to be circulated any signed statement or the name of any person signing the statement to a person or persons not employed by the retail mercantile establishment which obtained the statement, other than in defense of a legal action arising from the detention. Any person circulating or causing to be circulated this information shall be civilly liable to the person who signed the statement.
(d) For the purposes of this section, "reasonable grounds" includes knowledge that a person has concealed unpurchased merchandise of the establishment while on the premises, or has altered or removed identifying labels on merchandise while on the premises, or is leaving the premises with unpurchased concealed or altered merchandise in his or her possession.
(e) In detaining a person whom the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe is committing the crime of shoplifting, the merchant may use a reasonable amount of non-deadly force when and only when that force is necessary to protect himself or herself, or to prevent the escape of the person being detained or the loss of his or her property.
(f) In any civil action by a person detained under this section against the merchant so detaining him or her arising out of the detention, evidence that the defendant had reasonable grounds as defined in subsection (d) of this section to believe that the plaintiff was at the time in question committing or attempting to commit the crime of shoplifting as defined in § 11-41-20 shall create a rebuttable presumption that the plaintiff was so committing or attempting to commit the crime.
Why hire a Rhode Island Shoplifting Lawyer to handle my case?
As this webpage has likely made clear to you, shoplifting can be a surprisingly complex charge – and once with significant consequences. With the potential of jail time, monetary fines, civil penalties, and even immigration consequences facing those accused of shoplifting, it is incredibly important to have a skilled attorney handle you case. At the Marin, Barrett, and Murphy Law Firm we know these cases and we fight these cases – call us today and put us to work fighting your case today. We are available 24/7 at 401-228-8271.