The urge to shoplift is something that naturally arises in many people in Mississippi. Whether it be that you are short on cash, the item is small, or just simply for a thrill, shoplifting is often seen as a relatively harmless crime. However, shoplifting charges can give rise to fines, imprisonment, and downright embarrassment for you and your family. Moreover, a shoplifting arrest and conviction in Mississippi will typically be on your permanent record and impact your future employment options.
Mississippi Code Annotated § 97-23-93 defines shoplifting as willfully and unlawfully taking possession of any merchandise owned or held for sale by a merchant or store with the intent to take that merchandise without paying the merchant’s price. Of course, it would often be hard to differentiate between attempted shoplifting and an honest mistake, so the State of Mississippi included in the statute situations when the intent to shoplift would be considered to exist. These include when the person:
Conceals the unpurchased merchandise;
Removes or causes removal of unpurchased merchandise from a store;
Alters, transfers or removes any price-marking, any other marking which aids in determining value affixed to the unpurchased merchandise, or any tag or device used in electronic surveillance of unpurchased merchandise;
Transfers the unpurchased merchandise from one container to another; or
Causes the cash register to reflect less than the merchandise’s stated price for the unpurchased merchandise.
The evidence available to establish price or ownership of the merchandise, include, but is not limited to:
- The actual merchandise or container where the merchandise in question was held;
- The content of the price tag or marking from the merchandise; or
- Properly identified photographs of such merchandise.
Adding to this is the ability of the merchant or his agent or employee to testify as to the stated price or ownership of the merchandise in question. The merchant or their employee usually has no reason to lie about such a thing, and therefore their testimony may seal your conviction for shoplifting and expose you to punishment.
The punishment for shoplifting in Mississippi is generally as follows:
Value of Merchandise is $1,000 or Less:
First and second shoplifting conviction: A misdemeanor and a fine of $1,000 or less, imprisonment in the county jail for up to 6 months, or both a fine and imprisonment if the court finds substantial and compelling reasons why the offender cannot be safely and effectively supervised in the community, is not amendable to community-based treatment, or poses a significant risk to public safety. If the court does not find this, the court shall suspend the sentence of imprisonment and impose a probation period of 1 year or less, a fine of $1000 or less, or both.
Third or subsequent shoplifting conviction: Where the value of the shoplifted merchandise is between $500-$1,000, the defendant will be guilty of a felony and fined up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both.
Value of Merchandise is Between $1,000-5,000:
This is a felony and, upon conviction, will be punished as provided by Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-41 for the charge of grand larceny, which carries up to a 5-year sentence in the State Penitentiary (Parchman), up to a $10,000 fine, or both.
Value of Merchandise is Between $5,000-25,000:
This is a felony which will be punished as grand larceny, and carries a sentence in the Penitentiary for up to 10 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Value of Merchandise is Between over $25,000:
This is a felony which will be punished as grand larceny, and carries imprisonment in the Penitentiary for up to 20 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
When the court is determining the number of prior convictions for punishment, only convictions from the past 7 years will be considered, and for determining the gravity of the offense, the State may aggregate the value of the merchandise shoplifted from three or more separate stores within the same legal jurisdiction over a period of 30 days or less. As shoplifting is often not a one-time occurrence, Mississippians should exercise wise judgment in giving in to the temptation to take things without paying for them.
As you can see from the change in punishment due to occurrence or amount of merchandise taken, this is a crime that the State of Mississippi takes very seriously, and it can easily snowball from a small taking of property to a big-time restriction on your funds, freedom and employment. In cases such as these, an experienced attorney is necessary to assist you with defending these charges and obtaining a result that does not impact your future. When you find yourself facing a charge of shoplifting or grand larceny, call the Law Office of M. Devin Whitt. Our office has 15 years of legal experience in Mississippi courts to guide you through your options during these tough times. To schedule a free consultation, please contact attorney Devin Whitt at 601-607-5055.