Virginia Shoplifting Defense Lawyer

Have you been charged with shoplifting in Virginia? I imagine you’re scared and worried about what you’re facing. Let’s talk about it.

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Shoplifting Laws in Virginia

Shoplifting is a type of larceny. Depending upon the value of the merchandise in question, your shoplifting charge could be petit (petty) or grand larceny.

Table of Penalties for Larceny / Shoplifting Charges in VA

If you are charged with shoplifting in Virginia, you are facing some serious punishments. At the very least, you are looking at a misdemeanor conviction. The precise punishment depends upon the type of shoplifting you’re charged with, the facts of your case, and your prior record.

OffenseClassificationMax JailMax Fine
Petit (Petty) Larceny Class 1 Misdemeanor 12 Months $2,500.00
Grand Larceny Class U Felony 20 Years $2,500.00
Larceny w/ Intent to Sell Class U Felony 20 Years $2,500.00


Grand Larceny (18.2-95) in Virginia

Grand larceny in Virginia is any shoplifting (larceny) of $200 or more, codified in Virginia Code Section 18.2-95.

Petty Larceny (18.2-96) in Virginia

Petty (petit) larceny in Virginia is any shoplifting of merchandise valued at less than $200. Petit larceny is defined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-96.

First Offense Larceny in Virginia

WATCH: Will You Go to Jail for a First Offense Larceny Charge in VA?

Wondering whether jail time is a possibility for a petty larceny first offense in Virginia? The answer is yes; you are at risk of possible jail time.

The first thing you have to look at to determine your possible jail time risk even for a Virginia shoplifting first offense is the actual charge that you’re facing. Shoplifting can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon whether the alleged theft is considered Grand Larceny (over $200, and a felony), or Petit Larcey (under $200, and a misdemeanor).

So if you’re charged with felony shoplifting, even for your first offense, you absolutely are at a strong risk of looking at jail time. If you’re only charged with misdemeanor shoplifting then the jail time risk is less depending on the court; however there’s still a risk that you could get jail time.

The other thing to look at is your entire record. In Virginia if you’ve been previously convicted of a misdemeanor for theft, and you get a new conviction for theft, the law says that on your second offense you have to get 30 days of jail. On a first offense, you might not necessarily get jail time; however, on a second offense if you’re found guilty, you’re required to get 30 days of jail time and it certainly could be more than that.

This is not to say that everyone who’s charged with a first offense shoplifting will go to jail. It certainly is not mandatory jail time, but it is going to depend next upon the facts of your case and–importantly–upon the court where your case is pending. This is why I always recommend a local attorney who’s familiar with the local courts.

In some areas where I practice you might expect to get a day or two of jail for a first offense shoplifting. In other courts it would be very rare for a first offense to get jail time. If you’re hiring an attorney from outside the area where your case is pending, they may think that one day in jail is very reasonable for their normal courts, but that actually may be a very bad outcome for the court where your case is pending.

Your attorney needs to have the proper perspective on the local court to know what is a good outcome and what isn’t.

Second Offense Larceny in Virginia

WATCH: What Happens if Your Found Guilty of Larceny for a 2nd Time in Virginia?

In Virginia, a statutory minimum sentence of 30 days of jail is required if you’re found guilty of a second time for a theft-related offense, including petty larceny and grand larceny.

Virginia’s Shoplifting “Concealment” Statute

Most shoplifting cases in Virginia are actually charged under a statute that makes it easier for the prosecution to prove its case. The statute makes it larceny to conceal merchandise or alter the price tag of merchandise, in order to take the merchandise.

That statute, known as “concealment,” is Virginia Code Section 18.2-103:

Whoever, without authority, with the intention of converting goods or merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price thereof, or of defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise, (i) willfully conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, or (ii) alters the price tag or other price marking on such goods or merchandise, or transfers the goods from one container to another, or (iii) counsels, assists, aids or abets 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, shall be guilty of petit larceny and, when the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is $200 or more, shall be guilty of grand larceny. The willful concealment of goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, while still on the premises thereof, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to convert and defraud the owner thereof out of the value of the goods or merchandise.

As you can see, the concealment statute is just a specific type of larceny. Depending upon the value of the merchandise in question, your shoplifting charge could be considered petit or grand larceny.

Defense of Virginia shoplifting

There are ways to beat shoplifting charges. Here are just a few things we will examine:

  • Identity – Were you the person who was seen concealing merchandise? Perhaps you were with another person who was actually doing the shoplifting.
  • Intent – Did you intend to steal anything? The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually intended to steal.
  • Value – How much is the merchandise worth? If you are charged with felony shoplifting, we might be able to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor by fighting the value of the goods.

If the prosecutor cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, you can beat your charge completely.

Possible dismissal of shoplifting charges

Even if there is no legal defense to your shoplifting charge, we still might be able to get your case dismissed.

If you are charged with petit or petty shoplifting and you have a good prior record, some judges and prosecutors might agree to dismiss your case after you meet certain conditions. You would usually have to pay restitution, stay free of new charges for a period of time, perform some community service, and possibly attend anti-shoplifting classes. If you do everything you’re supposed to, your charge would normally be dismissed.

This outcome is known as a first offender disposition. It’s not always available, but it can be a great way to prevent a misdemeanor from tarnishing your clean record.

Penalties for Grand Larceny with Intent to Resell the Merchandise

If you’re charged with felony shopping with the intent to resell the merchandise, you are looking at harsh penalties if convicted. The mandatory prison sentence for this violation is no less than 2 years, and you could get up to 20 years in the state penitentiary. The specific time that you’re looking at would depend upon many factors, such as your prior record, your cooperation with the police, etc.

In order to prove this violation, the Commonwealth has to show that you did in fact intend to resell the merchandise. However, the statute gives them a leg up in proving this. The law says that if you steal more than one item of the same product, that is “prima facie” evidence that intend to resell the merchandise.

At court, you could then mount the defense that you did not actually intend to resell the merchandise, and it would be up the judge or jury to determine what they believe beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reducing a Felony Larceny Charge to a Misdemeanor

Even though you may be charged with felony shoplifting due to the dollar amount of the merchandise, it may be possible to get the charge reduced to a lesser misdemeanor offense. This will depend upon a variety of factors, such as:

  1. How much over $200 was the merchandise? A $201 felony shoplifting charge is surely easier to get reduced to a misdemeanor than a case where you are accused of shoplifting $5,000 worth of merchandise.
  2. What is on your previous record? If this is a first offense, there is more likely a chance of having the felony reduced to a misdemeanor.
  3. Were you cooperative with law enforcement? In my experience, prosecutors don’t like to help people out if they gave the officers a difficult time.
  4. Were there any extenuating circumstances? Someone stealing food after losing their job is a much different scenario than someone stealing video games or some other luxury item.

Because of the various factors involved, you need to talk with your lawyer about all the facts in your case and your background. It’s best to be truthful and honest with your lawyer to try to get the charge amended from felony shoplifting to simple misdemeanor shoplifting.

Further Reading

These are my most popular articles on Virginia shoplifting defense:


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Talk to me about shoplifting

If you are charged with shoplifting in Virginia, I would love to talk with you. I usually handle cases in Fredericksburg, King George, Spotsylvania, and Stafford. I also go to other nearby counties when the need arises.

I limit my practice to misdemeanor defense, however, if you are facing a felony larceny charge I can refer to a trusted local lawyer who handles felony charges. Please contact me for a free Virginia shoplifting consultation.

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