Under Massachusetts law, Chapter 266, Section 30A, "Any person who intentionally takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred” items from a store without paying can be charged with shoplifting. The statute is very broad and covers altering or changing price tags, removing shopping carts from a store, and even eating food prior to paying for it.
This is a law where a police officer can arrest you without probable cause as long as he/she believes that you committed the offense according to the law.
If the item stolen is less than $100, you are fined up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for a second offense. If the item is more than $100, you could instead be charged with larceny, either as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are charged with larceny, there is the potential for jail time and stiffer fines.
It may seem easier to take a plea deal and be done with the whole situation, but it could have a real impact on your future. Prosecutors can use surveillance videos and business records to prove their case. To defend your case, you can bring up any inappropriate actions by store employees or detention in a store that is unreasonable.
Also, if you are not arrested, but released after the incident, you may still get a summons to go to court. Do not ignore this! Go to court and fight your case. On the other hand, if the store sends you a letter demanding payment, read the letter carefully. If it is a civil demand letter, you are not under any obligation to pay and if you do it could be used against you for your criminal case. If the store wants to pursue something against you through a civil court, you will be served formally with a complaint.
If you are accused of shoplifting or larceny, please call our office at (508) 438-1198.