If you are accused of shoplifting for the first time, you will probably experience a good deal of stress and fear. The important thing to remember is that since it is your first offense, the courts are likely to be more lenient. At the same time, you should not be complacent because a Massachusetts shoplifting charge can carry consequences that may stay with you for many years to come.

Shoplifting is broadly defined as the theft of commercial property from a store. It also must be an act of taking property from an entity without his or her permission, with the intent to permanently deprive the individual of the property.

What does Massachusetts law say about shoplifting?

There are specific laws in place that serve to separate shoplifting crimes from other types of theft, such as burglary or fraud. In Massachusetts, penalties for shoplifting depend largely on the value of the property that you were accused of taking and on whether you have a previous criminal charge.

If the property is valued at less than $100, it is likely that you will only face a maximum fine of $250, as long as you have not been convicted of a prior offense. If the goods are valued at more than $100, the consequences will be far higher, and you will usually be punished depending on how valuable the goods were. The maximum sentence as a first offender is 2.5 years in jail, with the possibility of a fine of up to $1,000.

How can I defend myself against the charge?

If there is no proof that you committed the crime, there may be ways to effectively defend yourself. If there is no video footage of the alleged incident, perhaps you were caught up in a case of mistaken identity, or the item you supposedly stole was purchased elsewhere. Maybe you were discriminated against, and as a result, you were wrongfully accused. These aspects of your case can be pursued further.

If you have been accused of shoplifting, and you have never committed a crime before, it is important that you take action right away so the issue can be dealt with decisively. You want to minimize the potential damage to your life and your reputation.