Shoplifting in Utah is no big deal – right?
Suppose someone steals a bracelet from the local department store or a six pack from the supermarket. To some, it’s just a minor offense with very little consequence. Some folks think that even if the thief gets caught, they probably won’t face more than a misdemeanor slap on the wrist with a fine and very little jail, at most. Busy stores, busy police, and busy prosecutors probably don’t have much time to devote attention and resources to petty thefts.
Utah House Bill 44
But, in 2012, an association of retail merchants convinced the Utah legislature to stiffen the penalties for shoplifting. The new law – known as House Bill 44 – gives cops another tool to fight repeated shoplifters.
Under the new law, if a store catches a thief and gives him formal notice not to return to the store, the thief will be subject to increased punishments if he returns and steals again. Specifically, the level of the offense will go up one degree.
Shoplifting Punishment Depends on Value of Goods
In Utah, the punishment for theft is based upon the value of the items stolen. For example, if the value is less than $500.00, the crime would be a class B misdemeanor. On the upper end, if the value is over $5,000.00, the crime would be a third degree felony.
Now, that level can be bumped up – even as high as a second degree felony – if a thief returns to steal from a store he’d previously been told not to come back to.
Plus, Utah’s theft statute has a version of the “three strikes” law. If a person is convicted of theft three times, the person faces criminal prosecution for a third degree felony, even if the value of the stolen items was minimal. Under Utah law, it’s possible to go to prison with a felony conviction for stealing a loaf of bread on three separate occasions.
So, the take home lesson is that a minor shoplifting conviction can have far greater negative impact than some people might imagine. Even if it seems like no big deal, a person facing shoplifting charges needs competent legal advice to help protect them from potentially far reaching consequences that could topple like dominoes.
If you or someone you love is in legal trouble, the best advice is to get a good Utah criminal defense lawyer on your team as soon as possible.