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When does shoplifting become a felony crime?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

As defined by North Dakota law, shoplifting is the willful taking of unpaid merchandise with the intent to deprive a store. It’s a broad term that can refer to various actions that are related to the offense, such as concealing unpaid goods, altering price tags and transferring the contents of an unpaid item from one container to another.

For a first offense, a person convicted of shoplifting typically gets a Class B misdemeanor on their record. It carries a maximum $1,500 fine and up to 30 days of jail time. That might be punishment enough for some, but serious cases of shoplifting can lead to felony charges instead, which carry even more penalties.

Felony charges for repeat offenders

If a person with a prior shoplifting conviction gets a second or third offense within three years, the crime is a Class A misdemeanor. But that all changes once the person is charged for a fourth or subsequent time within four years. On conviction, a person with three or more prior offenses will get a Class C felony on their record.

Those convicted of Class C felonies will have to pay as much as $10,000 in fines and serve up to five years in prison.

Felony charges for distributing theft equipment

Shoplifting crimes are sometimes committed with homemade devices that can either shield stolen goods from theft detection systems or disable those very systems. These include things like booster bags (bags lined with aluminum foil to shield stolen items from detection) or magnets to deactivate anti-theft strips.

Those caught possessing or using these devices typically face a Class A misdemeanor charge. But officers can instead charge a person with a Class C felony if they unlawfully distributed or sold such devices to others.

In summary, shoplifting becomes a felony crime if the person either habitually commits theft or is aiding and abetting other thieves by giving away illegal shoplifting tools. Felonies translate to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, not to mention a criminal record that will hurt the person’s future opportunities. Those who face felony charges for shoplifting should carefully prepare their defense because a conviction can hurt in more ways than one.