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What Are the Penalties for Shoplifting in Utah?

Shoplifting in Utah is considered a serious offense that carries various penalties, depending on the value of the stolen property and the offender’s criminal history. State laws categorize shoplifting charges from class B misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. The repercussions of a conviction can include fines, imprisonment, and a permanent criminal record, which can significantly impact an individual’s future opportunities.

The penalties for shoplifting items valued under $500 typically result in class B misdemeanor charges in Utah. Convictions under this category can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. As the value of stolen goods increases, so does the severity of the punishment, with greater fines and longer potential jail time.

When the value of the merchandise exceeds $5,000 or if the offense is part of a series of theft-related crimes, individuals may face second-degree felony charges. These carry far heavier consequences, including potential fines of up to $10,000 and incarceration for an up to 15-year term. Moreover, offenders may be required to pay restitution to the affected merchants and participate in community service or educational programs.

Photo of a Man Trying to Steal

Legal Definitions of Shoplifting in Utah

In Utah, shoplifting is legally referred to as retail theft and encompasses various actions that constitute stealing from a retail establishment. The state categorizes shoplifting under Section 76-6-602 of the Utah Criminal Code, defining it as the intentional act of taking possession of merchandise offered for sale without paying and with the intention of depriving the merchant of the merchandise permanently.

The acts included under this definition are:

  • Taking merchandise: Physically removing an item from a store without intent to pay.
  • Altering price tags: Changing or swapping the price tags to pay less than the actual retail price.
  • Transfer of merchandise: Moving an item from one container to another with an intent to not pay the full retail value.
  • Under-ringing: Causing the cash register or scanning device to reflect less than the full retail value.
  • Tampering with security devices: Deactivating or interfering with theft detection devices to facilitate shoplifting.

Additionally, a person becomes liable for shoplifting if they:

  • Attempt to commit any act constitutive of retail theft.
  • Conspire with another person to commit retail theft which leads to possession, sale, or receipt of stolen property.

It must be noted that the intention to deprive the merchant of possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise is crucial. The charges and penalties vary depending on the value of the stolen merchandise, with more severe penalties for higher values. Shoplifting can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, based on these factors.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting

In Utah, the criminal penalties for shoplifting are determined by the value of the stolen property and can range from misdemeanors to felonies. The state takes these offenses seriously, and consequences escalate with the severity of the theft.

Class B Misdemeanors

  • Offense Level: Theft of property less than $500.
  • Penalty: Up to six months in jail; fines up to $1,000.

Class A Misdemeanors

  • Offense Level: Theft of property valued between $500 and $1,500.
  • Penalty: Up to one year in jail; fines up to $2,500.

Felony Charges

  • Third-Degree Felony: Theft of property valued between $1,500 and $5,000.
    • Penalty: Up to five years in prison; fines up to $5,000.
  • Second-Degree Felony: Theft of property exceeding $5,000 or if the individual has two or more prior theft-related convictions.
    • Penalty: One to 15 years in prison; fines up to $10,000.

Civil Liabilities and Compensatory Fines

In Utah, individuals caught shoplifting may face both criminal charges and civil liabilities. The civil action is separate from any criminal consequences and can be pursued by the merchant to recoup losses and damages incurred due to the theft.

The civil damages that a merchant can seek include, but are not limited to:

  • The retail price of the merchandise, if not returned in sellable condition
  • A penalty to the merchant of $100 to $500
  • Attorneys’ fees and legal costs

Under Utah Code Section 78B-3-108, merchants are entitled to civil penalties from adult and emancipated minors who commit the act of shoplifting. Parents or legal guardians of an unemancipated minor can also be held liable for the minor’s actions.

The breakdown of compensatory fines is outlined as follows:

  • Retail Price: Full compensation for the retail price of goods that cannot be resold due to damage or loss.
  • Additional Penalty: An additional penalty payable to the merchant ranging from $100 to a maximum of $500.
  • Legal Reimbursements: Merchants may also claim reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs incurred in pursuing the civil action.

It is important to note that these compensatory fines are intended to reimburse the merchant for the loss and deter future incidents of shoplifting. These civil penalties are demanded through a civil demand letter and can be pursued whether or not the shoplifter is convicted of criminal charges. If the person accused of shoplifting does not comply with the demand, the merchant may file a lawsuit to obtain a judgment for the amount owed.

Factors Influencing Shoplifting Penalties

In Utah, several factors affect the severity of penalties for shoplifting offenses. The value of the stolen property is a primary determinant, with thresholds set at various monetary levels that escalate the seriousness of the charge:

  • Under $500: Typically considered a Class B misdemeanor
  • $500 to $1,500: Class A misdemeanor
  • $1,500 to $5,000: Third-degree felony
  • Over $5,000: Second-degree felony

The individual’s criminal history plays a crucial role. A first-time offender may receive a lighter sentence than a repeat offender. Prior convictions, especially for theft-related crimes, can lead to harsher penalties.

The manner in which the shoplifting occurred can also impact sentencing. If the individual engaged in elaborate schemes or used incapacitating devices to facilitate the theft, they may face more serious charges.

Courts may consider the offender’s age and personal circumstances. Minors or those with extenuating life situations may receive alternative sentencing such as diversion programs or community service.

Here’s a brief overview using a list format:

  • Value of stolen property: Increments up to $500, between $500-$1,500, $1,500-$5,000, and over $5,000 with corresponding charges.
  • Criminal history: Prior offenses, particularly theft-related, increase penalty severity.
  • Method of theft: Use of devices or complex schemes can enhance charges.
  • Individual circumstances: Age and personal history may influence sentencing, potentially leading to diversion or community service options.

If you have any questions or you’ve been arrested for shoplifting, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Weber Law.

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