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Shoplifting allegations could result in felony theft charges

You visited a store and tried on a designer suit or a necklace, then another. At some point, something else happened, distracting you from what you were doing. Eventually, you left the store, only to get stopped by law enforcement on your way home. A simple mistake with merchandise, if it's worth more than $1,000 could be considered felony theft in New Hampshire.

That could mean that you, as a consumer, end up facing serious felony criminal charges because you forgot you were wearing an item when you left the store. This is just one example of how people end up wrongly charged with a felony.

Others could have done something similar, like forget about a large and expensive item placed on the lowest rack of their shopping cart. If the cashier doesn't notice it, but security does on the way out the store, criminal charges could easily be the result. While it makes sense that businesses want to reduce shoplifting and other forms of merchandise loss, innocent customers caught up in the criminal justice system could pay the price for retailers' protection.

The value of the item(s) determines the charges

In New Hampshire, the kind of theft changes brought will depend on the value of the items that were allegedly shoplifted. For items with a retail value of less than $1,000, the likely charge will be petty theft, a Class A misdemeanor. This charge carries as much as a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. If the total value of the allegedly stolen items was over $1,000 but less than $1,500, you could face grand theft charges, which is considered Class B felony theft. A Class B felony could amount to seven years in prison and a fine of up to twice the value of the stolen property.

For those accused of shoplifting items with a value of $1,500 or more, the consequences are severe. This Class A Felony carries up to fifteen years in prison, as well as a fine of up to twice the value of the stolen goods. It's also important to note that your lower-level shoplifting charges could get increased to something more serious if you had previously gotten convicted of, or plead guilty to, another theft-related offense.

Take shoplifting as seriously as the stores do

If you are stopped, detained or arrested for shoplifting, you should treat it seriously. Be sure to remain aware of your rights and use them. Whether you're interacting with security guards or law enforcement, be careful not to say anything that could get viewed as a confession. Mistakes do happen, but you don't want to end up getting held criminally responsible for yours!

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