Maybe you took that loaf of bread because your kids are starving. Or you're unemployed and changed the price tag on the suit that you need for a job interview. People shoplift for numerous reasons, but these reasons don't excuse theft and won't protect you from facing shoplifting charges in Virginia.
Virginia Shoplifting Laws: Elements of the Crime
It's unlawful to engage in the following:
- Willfully concealing or taking possession of the goods or merchandise of any store;
- Altering the price tag or other price marking on such goods or merchandise or transferring the goods from one container to another; or
- Counseling, assisting, or abetting another in the performance of any of the above acts.
When the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is less than $200, the offense is considered "petit larceny"; if the property is valued at $200 or more, it's "grand larceny." The willful concealment of goods or merchandise while still on the premises is presumptive evidence in Virginia of the intent to defraud the owner out of the value of the property.
Virginia Shoplifting Laws at a Glance
Although it's advisable to consult with an attorney for complex cases, a plain language explanation of the relevant statutes can act as a good introduction to the law. The chart below provides a summary of the statutes that make up Virginia's shoplifting laws, including links to important code sections.
Virginia Code Annotated:
Penalties and Sentencing
The charges and the penalties depend on the cash value of the property involved.
- Property Valued at $200 or More: Considered grand larceny, which typically constitutes a felony in Virginia, punishable by 1-20 years in prison.
- Property Valued at Less Than $200: Considered petit larceny, which constitutes a misdemeanor, punishable by incarceration for up to 1 year.
You may be ordered to pay civil damages to store owners. A merchant can sue for two times the unpaid retail value of the merchandise that you took, with a minimum of $50. If the property is capable of being sold, the judgment is capped at $350. If the merchant wins the case, you may be ordered to pay some part of their legal fees.
- Lack of intent
- Mistake of fact
- Virginia Code Annotated, Section 18.2-105.2 (Manufacture, sale of devices to shield against electronic detection of shoplifting)
- Va. Code Annotated Section 19-2-102.1 (Removal of shopping cart from store premises)
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.
Virginia Shoplifting Laws: Related Resources
Facing Shoplifting Allegations? Defend Yourself with an Attorney's Help
Violating Virginia's shoplifting laws can result in harsh penalties. Taking merchandise valued at only $200 triggers a felony charge. If you're facing charges, you'll likely want an attorney on your side who can mount a strong and persuasive defense on your behalf. Locate a skilled criminal defense attorney near you with FindLaw's attorney directory.