Shoplifting is a specific type of theft crime involving the stealing of merchandise from a business. States treat shoplifting differently, with some treating it as a separate crime, while others, like Maryland, including it under their general theft laws. Maryland law also recognizes the "Shopkeeper's Privilege," which allows merchants to reasonably detain a shopper where there is probable cause to believe that a theft took place.
Shoplifting in Maryland
Under Maryland's theft statute, it's a crime to willfully or knowingly obtain unauthorized control over property if the person taking the property:
- Intends to deprive the owner of the property; and
- Uses, conceals, or abandons the property in a way that deprives or probably will deprive the owner of the property.
Under this definition, someone can be convicted of shoplifting for merely concealing merchandise in a store even if they never made it out the door. The key question is whether a prosecutor can prove the intent to deprive the owner of the property or establish evidence of actions that could "probably" deprive the owner of the property.
For example, someone may have placed a store's merchandise in her purse while shopping in order to keep it away from young children, but then forgot to purchase the items at the register. In this case, the woman could argue that she lacked intent and is therefore not guilty.
It's also important to note that Maryland's shoplifting laws can reach those who purchase stolen merchandise. They can be criminally liable if they:
- Know the items were stolen or believe it likely that they were stolen; and
- Intend to deprive the owner or take actions in a manner that deprive the owner of the property.
Overview of Maryland Shoplifting Laws
For more information on specific Maryland shoplifting laws and penalties, see the chart below.
Maryland Criminal Code Section 7-104 (General Theft)
Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Section 5-402 (Shopkeeper's Privilege)
The penalties for shoplifting and theft in general depend on the value of the property at issue, as follows:
Less Than $100: This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in prison, a fine of up to $500.
Between $100 and $1,000: This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to $500 in fines.
Less Than $1,000 (2 or More Prior Convictions): This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Between $1,000 and $10,000: This is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Between $10,000 and $100,000: This is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Over $100,000: This is a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Note: For convictions under the theft statute, a defendant can also be required to restore the property taken or its value to the owner.
Shoplifting defenses can include:
- Mistake of fact (mistaken ownership)
- Lack of intent
- Return of property
For more information, see Theft Defenses.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Additional Resources for Maryland Shoplifting Laws
Need Help with Your Shoplifting Case in Maryland? Contact an Attorney
As you can see, one of the major issues in Maryland shoplifting cases is intent, something that isn't always easy for a prosecutor to prove. If you're facing shoplifting charges in Maryland, it's best to speak with a local criminal defense attorney about your case as early as possible.