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Defining shoplifting in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts law, an individual can be taken into custody for shoplifting with no warrant necessary. Shoplifting is any act that aims to deprive a merchant of use or benefit from merchandise located inside of a store, in a container inside of a store or in a shopping cart that is removed from a retail location. An individual may be charged with shoplifting if he or she did not actually steal any merchandise.

This is because an individual may be charged with shoplifting for changing the price on a price tag or by entering a different price for a product when making a sale. This may be done for the benefit of the individual who changes the price or for the benefit of another individual. If an individual removes a shopping cart that has merchandise inside of it without the merchant's consent, that may be construed as shoplifting.

If there is less than $100 of merchandise in the cart, a first offense will result in a fine of no more than $250. A second offense will result in a fine of $100 to $500, and a third offense may result in jail time. In the event that more than $100 is taken in a shopping cart, a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of 2.5 years or both may be imposed even for a first offense.

Those who are convicted on a charge of shoplifting may have to pay a fine, spend time in jail or both. However, a criminal defense attorney may help someone facing such a charge avoid some or all of the penalties associated with the charge. This may be done by arguing that an object as taken by mistake or that a cashier changed the price of an object without the individual's knowledge.

Source: The 188th General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "Chapter 266 Section 30A", November 02, 2014

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