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When can shoplifting lead to felony charges in Virginia?

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Theft And Shoplifting |

Crimes involving physical violence often lead to potentially life-altering charges and significant penalties if someone pleads guilty. Other crimes may seem less serious, in part because people view them as victimless offenses. Shoplifting is a perfect example of a crime people view as victimless. Unlike robbery or burglary, shoplifting typically involves a business rather than an individual. Therefore, people expect to receive lenient treatment when accused of a shoplifting offense in Virginia, especially if they plead guilty.

The expectation is likely that they face a misdemeanor charge with minimal penalties, but prosecutors can pursue felony charges in some cases. Judges and juries have the option of handing down the maximum sentence possible in some cases. When can the seemingly victimless crime of shoplifting turn into a felony offense under Virginia law?

The value of the property determines the charge and penalties

Typically, shoplifting involves hiding merchandise, leaving the store without paying for items or altering tags to pay less than the actual retail price of an item. Typically, minor theft offenses that don’t involve directly stealing from an individual are petit larceny. Petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. However, as the value of the items involved increases, the possibility of more serious charges arises.

Once the overall value of the property reaches $1,000, prosecutors can pursue felony grand larceny charges instead of the petite larceny charges common in most shoplifting scenarios. If someone steals a firearm, that could also lead to grand larceny charges regardless of the value of the item.

Finally, if the shoplifting incident involves physically taking items from store clerks or other shoppers, that could also cross the line into grand larceny territory. Not only is grand larceny a felony, but it carries significantly higher penalties than petite larceny does. Grand larceny charges can lead to anywhere between one and 20 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

Anyone accused of shoplifting in Virginia may want to defend against those allegations to protect their reputation and avoid a criminal record. Realizing that the offense might be a felony could further incentivize someone to take their case to trial.